Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Not Fair

Anna was eighteen and just starting college when she found out that she was pregnant. The father was a fling, totally unreliable and had no interest in the child. Anna's life was turned upside down. How could she be so careless? How could she let this happen?

After praying, crying and talking to her parents and friends, she decided to give the baby up for adoption. The child deserved a good life and she was unfit to be its mother. And, to be honest, she didn't want to sacrifice her life. She wanted to go to college.

A couple from Connecticut adopted her baby, a little girl. They had two boys and really wanted a girl but didn't want to chance a pregnancy in which they might get yet another boy. They took her baby as their own and Anna gave up all parental rights. She was no longer a mother, or so she thought.

But every day of her life, even if it was just for a moment, Anna would wonder about that little girl. How was she growing up? What did she look like? Was she happy? She wondered if her daughter would ever contact her, but she never did. And Anna assumed that she had no right to know what her daughter was up to. She went on with her life but a part of her always wondered.

When Anna's daughter, Jennifer, turned 30, she prepared to be married in Connecticut. One day, she came home from work and her fiancé gave her shocking news. "Jennifer," he said. "I don't think that you are ready to marry me."

"What!? Why?" she asked, about to burst into tears.

"You need to find your biological mother. You have always wondered about her. Find her. Find out who she is. Then we can be married..."

Jennifer began to search for Anna. Anna had always left her contact information with the adoption agency in the hope that her daughter might some day want to know her. So she was not hard to find.

You could have knocked Anna over with a feather when she first heard her daughter's voice on the phone. It sounded so much like her own! They began to speak, they met for a long weekend at the beach. And Jennifer decided that she wanted Anna at her wedding. And not only that,  Anna was to sit in the front row  with the parents who had raised her daughter.

Jennifer's adoptive parents were remarkably generous in welcoming Anna into all of their lives. Together, they shared grandparent duties when Jennifer had her first baby. But all the time,  Anna could not help feeling that it was so unfair. So unfair and yet so beautiful. She hadn't done any of the hard work. She hadn't changed diapers and put up with pimply adolescence. And she got all the benefits, as if she had been there from the start. She got to sit in the front row at her daughter's wedding.

Today Jesus tells us a parable about a landowner who is not fair. He hires workers all throughout the day, from morning to night. But when the day is done, he pays them all the same wage...those who worked for five minutes get the same amount as those who worked all day. It is clearly and unabashedly unfair.

God is not fair. God is good and infinitely generous but no where in the Bible does it say that God is fair.

I knew a man who lived the most wild life: partying and drugs and women and gambling- he did it all. At the age of 65, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was all alone. His third wife had left him after he had yet another affair. 

This man found my church in the yellow pages (yes, it was years ago).  He came to my office and confessed his sins. One week later, he called asking me to come to his home because he was too sick to come to me. He sat in an armchair and told me that he had had a vision of Jesus walking towards him with his arms open. He cried. And the next day, he died.

His funeral was a mess. He had made no plans. His wives and mistresses were warring with one another, but I believe that God welcomed him home, at the eleventh hour.

And how is this fair? Here we are, worshipping faithfully, giving our money and time, serving the poor the sick and the needy, and all he did was party! It's not fair!

The notion of fair comes from the mind of a two or three-year old. It is a good notion but it is a human notion, too simplistic for God. God is too wise to be fair. God knows things we do not. God is too vast to give us all the same thing. We are so unique and so individual and only God can fathom what we need.

When John Claypool's daughter died at the age of nine from cancer, he sat at the breakfast table one morning so depressed he could hardly breathe. How could God be so unfair? Why did other parents get to keep their kids? Why did he have to suffer? Why did his daughter have to suffer?

Then, in  a moment, John looked up and he saw his son, sitting across the breakfast table eating Cheerios, healthy and alive. And in that moment, John realized that it was his choice. He could be angry about how unfair life was or he could be grateful for the child he had. That was the defining moment of his life. He decided that God was not fair but God was good. John realized that his daughters life was a gift. He had her for seven years.

Think about your life. Where do you feel like you've been cheated? How do you compare yourself to others? What do they have that you don't have? A better job? A nice house? Healthy kids? Life is difficult. But it is a gift and you won the lottery just to get here. Jesus never promised us that life would be fair. You have a choice as to how you see your life. Do you want to be grateful or do you want to be angry because life is unfair?

You may say to yourself, "Why should I be grateful? I have arthritis so bad I can hardly walk. My husband left me. I am alone in this world. I lost my job..."  And you are right. Some of you, in fact, most of us, have had to suffer in this life. But look around you. How is it that you were born? How incredible that, out of all the infinite possibilities of genome, that you came to be? How incredible that you breathe? Dr Ryan Uitti spoke at Episcopal this past week and he said that it is hard NOT to believe in God. It would be like believing that a tornado passed through a junkyard and left behind a F16 fighter jet. There is too much beauty and genius to the creation, there is too much intentionality.

Life is not fair. You are right. God never promised us fair. God promised us love and a front seat at the wedding of life itself, at the dance of creation, the great feast of God.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Reality of Relationships

Richard grew up in a nearly perfect family. His dad was a renowned surgeon. His mom stayed at home. He had a younger  brothers and their life was full of safety, learning and fun. Their dad was stoic, calm and loving. They adored him and waited with excitement every night for him to come home. They loved to get him to wrestle with them on the living room floor after dinner. He was big and strong and seemingly invincible, their protector and their provider.

Richard grew up, got a law degree and began to practice law. At the age of 30, with no warning at all, his is dad...his dad, who he had looked up to his whole life, decided to start another family.

Richard's dad fell in love with a patient, a woman 20 years his junior, and he decided that he did not want to be a father to his adult children any longer. He told them that he had never told them how much he resented them. He sent Richard a letter. "I have raised you and provided for you. I have experienced too much sadness and resentment trying to raise you and care for your mother. I give up. I am no longer your father." Richard was so devastated that he could hardly breathe. His father had simply never come to him when he felt discouraged or angered by him. He did not communicate conflict and then he just left. Richard was devastated and alone. He felt that his whole childhood had somehow been a sham.

Richard was never able to reconcile with his dad, despite many letters and phone calls. When his dad died, he did not even know about it. One of his friends happened upon his dad's obituary and that's how Richard found out that his dad was gone forever.

There is a powerful myth that exists in the church. It is a myth that defies denomination, it exists in all churches from the evangelical to the progressive. The myth is about relationships. The myth tells us that if we are faithful we will not have broken relationships, that if we are faithful,we will not fight with one another. The good Christian gets along with everyone, right?

Conflict, disagreement, argument...these things are not bad. They are the way that we have of communicating difference, hurt, confusion. Conflict can be very painful but it can also be incredibly helpful. If you do not have conflict, be careful. Someone may not be telling the truth about how they are feeling. Richards father refused to communicate when there was conflict. He let his resentment build and then he ran away from his entire family. Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships.

St Paul once wrote that we see through a glass dimly. Sometimes, when people are in a disagreement, it is almost as if there is a glass wall that stands between them. This glass wall is transparent but it is a bit warped. On one side, a person sees through it and everything looks one way but the person on the other side sees things differently. Many of the conflicts that arise between us arise simply because we have experienced an event differently. Our perspectives, what we see and experience, are different and we respond to what we are seeing and this leads to conflict.

Conflict in the world and especially in the church is inevitable. Let me say that again, conflict is inevitable. If there is conflict in your life, it is not because you did anything wrong. It has to do with our fallen world and our lack of perspective. We see through a glass dimly. Dimly. The glass is sometimes warped by our hurts and the repetitive patterns of our lives. Sometimes we can't even see each other at all.

Jesus talks about relationships today and he openly talks about conflict. He talks about conflict in a way that assumes each of us will experience it. "If your brother sins against you, this is what you do..." He gives us a clear and concise list of instructions. The instructions are simple and yet they are terribly hard to do.

First and perhaps most importantly, when someone wrongs you, GO AND TALK TO THEM. Out of all Jesus' instructions, this is the one we most avoid. We want to pretend that it didn't bother us. We don't think it is worth our time. We don't think the other person will respond well or we are just too darned tired. If we really followed this commandment, we would be talking to someone at least once a week right? Daily? Be honest. How many times does someone hurt your feelings or wrong you in some way? But so many times, if we just follow Jesus' instructions and go to the person alone, without gossip or self-pity or wallowing...so many times the dispute ends right there and in many cases, the relationship is strengthened. It is so hard to be honest about this. It takes time. It takes effort. And sometimes, we just want to do what is easiest, to pretend nothing is wrong, or to tell anyone or everyone else about our hurt and not the person who hurt us.

There are times when you do go directly to the one who hurt you and try to talk to them, and it doesn't work. There are times when people don't admit to wrongdoing or their perspective on life is so different from yours and in their eyes, they are the victim not the perpetrator. And in those cases, Jesus tells us to go back to the person but this time with witnesses or, literally, listeners, people who are objective and have integrity, who will not take sides. Take with you people who see clearly and have the capacity to listen. Let them see and hear the truth. If they cannot explain or help you reconcile, then bring the conflict to the church. Technically, the word ecclesia that Jesus used meant community. Clearly, Jesus wanted the conflict aired and discussed, not kept in the dark.

Finally, if none of this works, we are to end the relationship. Stop trying. Let the person be a non-relationship for you, like how a Jew was instructed in Jesus' day not to speak to a Gentile and a tax collector. Just let it be. And maybe this is the hardest part of all. It is hard to stop trying.

Jesus is telling us that it is OK to have people that you cannot or do not relate to. That is the final breakdown of the myth. Jesus is saying that, even in church, there are times when you have to end a relationship. Conflict should not last forever. After a number of tries, it becomes obsessive and sinful. Try, get help, and if you can't fix the relationship, end it. Don't let it live broken forever. Let it go.

The pain of saying goodbye to folks who will not change is devastating. Richard wanted a relationship with his father but his father would not have it. And this pain is something that he still carries with him today. He never really got to say goodbye.

No human relationships are perfect and sometimes the least inadequate solution is goodbye. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, Paul says. Sometimes, the only thing that we can do is not to harm each other.

"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven," Jesus said. Heaven will be a place of relationships. The people who you love and live in relationship with will somehow be there. I am not sure that we will ever fully understand these words until we get there, but it is enough to know that relationships are part of your spiritual life. Relationships are part of how you live out your life of faith. You can bind people to you in love but you also have the capacity to loose them, to let them go. Why must we work so hard on our relationships? Because your relationship with God is impacted by your relationships with others. Your relationships affect your soul. And when we get along and truly connect, when two or three of us are really together and for even a brief moment, our barriers come down and we see each other clearly, God is there.

So communicate. Tell each other about the little conflicts before they get huge. Don't slack off or hold it in. Talk to one another. And, if after much effort, you cannot resolve a relationship, let it go. That's what forgiveness means, letting go. Do not stew or obsess or gossip. Just hand the relationship back to God.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rocky's Priorities

The word Peter means rock. Cephas in Aramaic,  Petros in Latin. Jesus called Peter his rock. He would build the church upon this rock. But the funny part about Peter, or Rocky as one theologian calls him, is that he was not solid at all at first.

Peter made more mistakes than anybody. He denied Jesus three times, he distracted from the event of the Transfiguration by trying to build monuments, he even gets called Satan by Jesus just a few verses later. How could Jesus have looked to someone so unreliable to start the church? How could Jesus have seen rock-solidness when the rest of us can only see a bumbler? What was it about Peter that made him the one to trust?

Peter does one thing right in the gospels. When Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Peter nails it. 

"Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asks Peter.

"You are Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."

Peter knows who Jesus is and he devotes his life to Jesus. For all his faults and foibles, he puts Jesus first. He knows that Jesus is the Christ, the ruler of his life, the most important one in world. He makes Jesus his first priority. He gets that part right. 

As Christians, Jesus asks us all this very simple question. He asks it all of our lives...

"Who do you say that I am?"

We answer this question by the way that we live our lives. Is Jesus your Lord? Is Jesus the first priority in your life, above all other relationships? We answer this question not just with words but primarily with our deeds. Does Jesus have some time in your day? And is Jesus part of your financial budget? We set our priorities primarily by allocating our time and money. If you want to see what is most important to a person, look at their calendar and look at their bank account. Where are they spending their time and where are they spending their money? That will tell you much more than words.

On July 20, 1969, two human beings changed our world forever by walking on the surface of the moon. But before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong got out of the Lunar Module, Buzz did something amazing, something that very few people know about.  Buzz Aldrin gave himself communion on the surface of the moon. It was the first thing that he did. After his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.

 Aldrin was an elder at a Presbyterian Church in Texas. He wanted to do something for God on the surface of the moon. He wanted to show the world that God was the first priority in his life. He asked his minister what he should do and the minister suggested communion. Buzz did not know that this would be possible. So the minister consecrated a communion wafer and a vial of wine and Buzz Aldrin took them with him. He and Armstrong had only been on the surface of the moon for a few moments when Aldrin made the following public statement:

 “This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John and he took communion.

Later, he wrote about taking communion on the moon..."In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the scripture...

 I am the vine, you are the branches.

 Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit ...

 Apart from me you can do nothing.

"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility.  It was interesting for me to think the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.  And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the "Love that moves the Sun and other stars."

Buzz answered Jesus' question, "But who do you say that I am?" by receiving communion on the face of the moon. How will you answer Christ's question?

Today, you will have an opportunity to walk around this campus and view a variety of ministries of this Cathedral. One way that you can answer Christ's question is to devote a portion of your time to serving God. This can happen in so many ways, from preparing the altar to serving a meal to the homeless. Look around. God is asking for your time, see what you can do to serve Jesus here in the core of the city.

In the next two months, we will also be asking you to make a financial pledge to the Cathedral. The more that you give, the more ministry can be done from this beautiful place. Consider your financial priorities. Is God right up there on your list? Are you giving enough to really be making a sacrifice for God? The amount of your pledge is not as important as the weight of its importance in your own budget. Giving should be the first thing that you do, not the last. Who do you say that Christ is in your life? Is he a top priority? It is sacrificial giving that changes the world. 

Buzz took communion on the surface of the moon. It was the first thing that he did. His first priority.

Peter left his home, his wife and his job to follow Jesus. What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to give? Do you take communion every week on the morning of the first day of the week? Is it the first thing that you do?

Jesus asks us all..."But who you YOU say that I am?"

How you chose to live your life...that is your answer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Walking on Chaos

I have been consumed with thoughts about the Christians in Iraq. I picture their pure terror as ISIS comes for them, forcing them from their homes, killing, starving. What would you do? I picture myself singing Amazing Grace as I prepare to die.
CS Lewis once wrote that a Christian has really one choice between two alternatives. We can either believe that Jesus really was the Son of God or we can believe that he was a lunatic.  One or the other. Many want to comfortably think of Jesus as a revolutionary or some kind of nice prophet, but the truth is that the gospels record some pretty wild stuff. Jesus walks on water. Jesus cures blind people. Jesus brings the dead back to life. And Jesus says that he is the Son of God, so either he was mentally ill or an incredible liar, or he was who he said he was. You have to come to terms with the gospels as miraculous occurrences or write them off entirely. There is no in between.

Today's gospel is so miraculous as to almost seem outrageous. Jesus finally says when and shows some tough love. He tells the crowds to go home, go away. He tells everyone to go away. He goes up a mountain to pray through the night. He sends the disciples out in their boat. After all, that was how they got their food. They went fishing at night. On the Sea of Galiliee, the fish rise at night. It is just too hot during the daylight hours so they go deep underwater during the heat of the day and rise to eat insects in the cooler hours of the night.

After his prayer time, Jesus comes to the disciples by walking on the water. It is by now early morning. And when they see him coming, the disciples are afraid. Jesus says, "Take heart. It is I. Don't be afraid."

Don't be afraid. The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters in the beginning of creation and Jesus moved across the waters to the disciples. God says, "I move across the chaos and disorder and violence and hatred, I walk on top of all of it to find a way to you."

I watched the movie Heaven is for Real this week. It is the true story of a four-year-old boy who almost dies from a ruptured appendix and finds himself in heaven. He describes heaven with amazing accuracy and seems to have greeted a great-grandfather he didn't know existed and even a sister who died just a few months before birth. The little boy talks of his experience with child-like trust and innocence but the adults in his life and in his fathers church find his experience disturbing.

The church board meets with the boy's dad, who is the pastor of this small Nebraska Church, and they tell the pastor to stop talking about his son's experience. They don't want to hear it anymore. It's too disruptive, it scares them. It's just plain weird.

When faced with the possibility of true miracles, we want to run away. Give me comfort. Give me rational explanations. Give me the status quo.

All of us are called to follow Jesus out on that water like Peter did. We must move out of the comfort of the boat that we know will sustain us, focus on Jesus himself as our source of strength, and then step into the unknown. How do you know when you are walking on water? When you dare to try things that could truly fail. When you aim to follow Jesus and have no idea how you will get there. Being a Christian takes enormous courage. It means believing in the possibility of miracles. It means stepping out in faith.

My friends, the status quo is just not good enough. The boat of comfort that we live in is not cutting it. Christians are dying by the thousands in the Middle East. The Ebola virus is spreading with disturbing speed.  We don't need a tame God who comforts only. We need miracles! We need the God who walks on water, rises from the grave, and saves people. 

I want you to pray in a new way this week. I want you to pray with the conviction that God can and will bring peace somehow to the Holy Land. I want you to step out in boldness and ask God to save those Christians being slaughtered in Iraq and around the globe. I want you to pray for the ethnic Yazitis who are trapped on a mountain in Iraq, starving to death. And even more importantly, I want you to offer God your all.  I want you to be willing to step out in faith. Ask that God will get you out of the boat. Ask God what He wants from you. Then ask Him for the courage to do things you think impossible. 

    There is a priest named Andrew White who is called the Vicar of Baghdad. Ten years ago, he was pastoring a flock of about 6000 Christians. In the past decade, 1200 members of this flock have been killed and yet he refuses to leave Baghdad. He walks on the chaos and continues to pray for a miracle. He looks nothing like what I would have pictured. He is not big, strong, courageous looking. He has glasses and he talks with a slight slur. Father White has multiple sclerosis. When asks if he thinks the situation will improve for Christians, he says that he must believe this. He has no other choice. He must believe in miracles.

If you were on top of the mountaintop with 40,000 others surrounded and dying, what would you do? Would you let yourself be killed? Would you fight? In a way, we all are up there with them on that mountain. We are all waiting for a miracle.

To follow Jesus means to face chaos.  To follow Jesus means to be afraid. Peter was scared stiff! He had no idea what he was doing. But he did it! He walked on water. Yes, on that day he became anxious and sank, and was saved by Jesus. But there would be more chances for Peter to step out in faith. And he did just that, even to martyrdom. 

Let us not give up hope that our world can be healed somehow, that God is great enough to find a way forward. Let us have the courage to step out on the chaotic waters ourselves, just like Peter, and to put our trust in the Son of God who transcends all that we can begin to imagine.  For He is The Lord, the God who saves His people. 

This is the God of the Universe here! Of course miracles are possible.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Fishes, Loaves and Toxic Charity

Other than the resurrection itself, there is only one miracle that is present in all four of the gospel accounts.  We hear about this miracle in the gospel today. It is also one of the very few miracles in which Jesus distributes goods, the other being the miracle at Cana. The multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is so important and if we look closely at Jesus' actions, we can learn how to minister to those in need.

Jesus is one busy guy. The crowds will not give him any peace. He tries to get away and they follow him like a swarm of flies. And yet, he cares for them, despite all their neediness.

The crowd has followed Jesus, the sun is setting and everybody is hungry. The disciples tell Jesus to send them away so that they can find food for themselves. "We cannot help them," the disciples say. "There are just too many of them."

We can't do it. We don't have enough. That is what the disciples say. And that is what we say when confronted with violence in the Middle East, the outbreak of the Ebola virus, and brutalities in the Ukraine.  "I can't solve these problems," we say. "I just don't have enough...strength, resources, wisdom, patience, understanding...I just don't have enough!"

In Mark's rendition of this miracle, before Jesus does anything at all, he asks a very important question. He asks, 

"What do you have?


"What have you got?

Instead of focusing on the lack of food, money, resources, Jesus asks them to identify what it is that they DO have, and then he multiplies it. You may not have much but you do have something to offer. What is it? What is your offering? 

Jesus could have made food appear out of nothing, but he didn't do that. He used what they had. He asked them to contribute to the miracle.

This summer, a group of us have been reading an amazing book. It is called Toxic Charity. The author, Robert Lupton, argues that non-profits and especially churches have been throwing money, clothing and food at the poor for decades without asking for anything in return. This kind of behavior presupposes that the people you are serving have nothing to offer, nothing to contribute. If you feed them without asking for their contribution, you demean them.

We send mission groups to foreign countries where we, for example, build houses. In doing so, we may be making ourselves feel better but the local people are basically being treated as if they cannot build their own houses, as if they have no skill and need complete rescuing. This creates a kind of toxic dependency, as the African villagers begin to believe that the only way they can improve their lives is to wait for Americans to come and build for them, feed them, dig their wells. 

In the last fifty years, the continent of Africa has received $1 trillion in benevolent aid. And yet, country by country, Africans are poorer today. Per capita income is lower than in the 1970's. Over half of the 700 million people on the continent live on less than $1 per day. Dambisa Moyo, African economist and author of the book Dead Aid, writes, "The foreign aid becomes a disease which pretends to be a cure." 

We do the very same thing to the poor of this country. We try to provide for their needs often without asking for them to contribute. Churches converge on neighborhoods, planting flowers and picking up trash, bruising the pride of the residents. We give children Christmas gifts as if their parents are no longer capable of giving. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, suitcases full of goodies, trips that one Nicaraguan leader says "turns my people into beggars."

No one has been worse at toxic charity than churches. Why? We want to help. We want to be generous, to do what is right. We want to do what Jesus did. But we have forgotten that the very first question to ask is not "what do you need?" No, the first question that Jesus asked was the polar opposite. He asked, "What have you got?"

Lupton talks about his first year in inner-city ministry. He brought a pile of wrapped Christmas presents to a family in the core of Atlanta. He unloaded the presents in the living room of their apartment and the father was so ashamed that he walked out of the room....

Does a person have a strong body? Can they hold a hammer? Can they clean a kitchen in exchange for food? Can a father earn those Christmas presents for his own children by doing some simple tasks, thus preserving his dignity and enabling him to be a father once more? 

The crowd of people with Jesus had so little, just five loaves and two fish. But Jesus took what they had to give BEFORE he served them. He gave them their dignity by asking them to contribute to their own meal. They contributed before Jesus did anything at all, and, best of all, he used everything that they gave as part of his solution, part of the miracle.

Every Sunday, we share Christ's body and blood together. But there is something immensely important that happens before the priest says the prayers. The bread and wine are carried up the center aisle from the congregation. These gifts, they come from you. We could easily bring them in from the side, but we bring them up from the midst of the congregation because Christ makes his Eucharist from what you can give him, from your contribution, from your offering.

Charity should never be a one-way relationship. Always the one who is serving the poor should acknowledge that they too are receiving something in return. It is relationships of mutuality that create love and strength for the days to come. 

Lately, when I turn on the news, I feel completely powerless. One of our members, Richard Samuel, is in Guinea right now and hiding from the Ebola virus. I have no answers for how to help him. I have no answers for how to end the mind-boggling hatred and violence which infects the Holy Land. I am dumbstruck by the way that the Ukrainians are suffering.  But just when I am feeling overwhelmed, I remember Jesus' words, "What have you got?"

I have prayer. I can pray. I can study and learn. I can listen to the cries of the world and ask for God's guidance. I can welcome Father Raja into our midst and try to help other Christians fleeing violence. 

Many years, ago, when things were more peaceful in Israel, I went to the Galilee with JD, to the place where they believe that this miracle occurred with loaves and fishes. There is a sixth century mosaic on the floor of the old church there. The mosaic is replicated on your bulletin cover. Just five simple loaves and four fish. Take a look. It doesn't look like much, does it?

Listen to me now.  

It is not your job to fix the world. God alone can do that. All Jesus asks of you is for you to give Him whatever you have. What is your five loaves and two fish? Give your gifts, your money, your skills, your prayers. Give yourself. Give your intelligence, your listening heart. These issues are complex and not easily solved. We must be willing to do all that we can. And Our Lord will do the rest. 

What have you got? Whatever it is, it is all that Jesus asks of you, no more and no less. Give what you have and then let God do the rest.