Sunday, September 29, 2013

removing our blinders

St. George’s Chapel
Proper 21, Year C, September 29, 2013
May the words I speak and the words you hear be God’s alone. Amen.
On the surface of today’s reading from the Gospel according to Luke, it appears that Jesus is delivering one of his most scathing criticisms of wealth. Lazarus, a poor man whose oozing sores are licked by dogs, sits at the gate of a rich man. The rich man, dressed in robes the color of royalty, enjoys bountiful meals every day. Lazarus looks longingly through the bars of the gate, dreaming of feasting on the crumbs that “f[a]ll from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). Time passes and the two men die. Lazarus ends up in heaven with Abraham, while the rich man is “tormented” in Hades (v. 23). The rich man cries out to Abraham but it is of no use; there is a chasm between them so deep and wide that none can cross it (v. 26). 
Having grown up in a privileged household, this passage makes me squirm. I have never had to worry where my next meal was coming from. Is Jesus really saying that just because my family has money, we are not going to heaven? The rich man isn’t an evil person, so he doesn’t deserve to go to hell, right? Where is the “wideness of God’s mercy” that we sing about (Hymn 499)? Is there no hope for those with means?
If we dig below the surface, what seems like a knock against wealth is actually more of a knock against blindness. The rich man is blind. I don’t mean that he needs glasses; the rich man’s self-centeredness has made him blind to his surroundings. Lazarus lives at the foot of a gate that the rich man has built to keep people out. We have no idea how long he’s been lying there, but I imagine it has been quite some time because the rich man knows Lazarus by name. He knows his name, but he never--not once!--offers the beggar some food. Lazarus dies, perhaps from hunger, and the angels carry him away because there is no one to bury him (v. 22). The rich man dies too, but is properly and probably lavishly buried. 
In the afterlife, the contradictions continue, but the tables are turned. Lazarus is enjoying the benefits of heavenly life in the presence of Abraham, while the rich man suffers in Hades. Now it is the rich man’s turn to gaze longingly toward something out of his grasp. Even though he realizes where he is, he still carries on as if he were back on earth. He commands Abraham (commands Abraham, the first patriarch of the faith!!) to make Lazarus come down to him to quench his thirst. Even in death the rich man does not see Lazarus as a human being, but as less than, as a person existing merely to serve him. The rich man has learned nothing; the chasm that separates him from heaven is this blindness to others. 
I imagine the second half of the story of the rich man and Lazarus is where Charles Dickens got his inspiration for A Christmas Carol. The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers, who are presumably following in his footsteps. But there will be no Marley for the rich man’s Scrooge-like brothers. Abraham replies that there have been enough signs throughout scripture and in the witness of prophets. If they aren’t convinced by that, then there’s no reason to expect that they would change their minds if they saw some dead beggar’s ghost. 
Now, it is important for us to remember who makes up Jesus’ audience. Just a few verses before today’s story, the Pharisees, described as “lovers of money,” have given Jesus a hard time because they are not too fond of his teachings, which largely point out their failings and misreadings of scripture (v. 14). The last part of the story of Lazarus is actually a jab at the Pharisees: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (v. 31).  Because they will not believe in Jesus and his teachings when he is alive, they will not believe in him even after he rises from the dead. 
Also in the audience are Jesus’ disciples and most likely a crowd of followers. Jesus speaks with Pharisees and other religious leaders, but he mostly hangs out with sinners and people on the margins of society. Imagine how they must feel to hear this message of hope for the hopeless and a warning against those who put up gates to shut people out! Even if they are persecuted in this life, something better awaits them, because God is on the side of the poor. 
The practice of seeing the Bible through the eyes of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized is called liberation theology. One of the leading theologians is Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit priest and university professor in El Salvador. In the 1970s to 90s there was a brutal civil war in El Salvador. People suspected of aiding the rebels were “disappeared” regardless of profession or gender. In this country, the smallest in Central America, 75,000 people were killed. Most of them were civilians, and many of them were killed and then mutilated by death squads. At the university where Jon Sobrino taught, 6 of his fellow priests were murdered by a death squad. They also killed their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. Jon Sobrino survived, but only because he happened to be out of the country when it happened. Sometime after the 6 priests were killed, some artists drew pictures from photos of people who had been killed in the war. These gruesome images were hung for all to see--in the back of the university chapel. Their mangled and exposed bodies are disturbing, and several people over the years have asked for them to be removed. They want to forget, they want to put the events behind them and not dwell on them any longer. Sobrino refuses; he says that every time he celebrates the Eucharist he sees the drawings and is reminded of his friends and of his purpose. 
What the story of the rich man and Lazarus is telling us, what the experience of Sobrino and the people of El Salvador is compelling us to do, is to take off our blinders, to tear down the gates we have put up. I know that I walk around with blinders on. I am ashamed to say that I have ignored homeless people on the street many times. I have locked my car door and pretended not to see the person begging on the street corner. Maybe you have done it, too. “It’s too sad,” we say. “It’s overwhelming; there’s too much that needs to be done, and I can’t solve the problems on my own.” You’re right. We can’t solve them alone. But each and every one of us can change the way we act toward others.   
Jesus actually teaches us, in Matthew’s version of the gospel, just how we are supposed to act toward others:
“…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).
In the gospel for today Jesus is offering us a chance at redemption. Through the story of Lazarus he is urging us to remove the blinders, to truly look at everyone we meet as if they matter. To acknowledge people’s existence; their humanity. Rich or poor, we are all made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). Instead of ignoring people that make us sad, when we look at them we should be reminded of our purpose: “…what does the Lord require of you”? “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). 

Photos* I took of the paintings in the back of the chapel 
at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador (Spring 2010)

*warning: these images are disturbing!!

Sources for Jon Sobrino and the Civil War in El Salvador:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

mountains o' things

All Saints’ Rehoboth Beach
Proper 20, Year C, September 22, 2013
Here is the complete lectionary (here's the Gospel, for those short on time).

May the words I speak and the words you hear be God’s alone. Amen.

In reading today’s Gospel passage from Luke I find myself scratching my head. This isn’t the first time I’ve read some of Jesus’ words and thought to myself, “What in the world is he trying to say here?” For me, the passage has simply led to a lot of questions.

Today’s parable isn’t a typical one. Instead of a story with a recognizable hero and definitive lines between good and bad, the lines are more blurred. Rather than a story of a lost coin or a lost sheep, we seem to have found yet another person with a lost moral compass. But the thing that is really surprising in this tale is that Jesus seems to be praising a manager for acting shrewdly in the face of being fired for his dishonesty. Wait, what? Where’s the remorse? Where’s the passionate change of heart? Or at the very least where’s the punishment if he does not amend his ways? Could this be an ancient form of sarcasm? Perhaps a dig at the doltish tendencies of his disciples? Probably not, but maybe Jesus is saying that we can learn from people even when we don’t like them very much. 

Maybe he is telling his disciples that in addition to all of the other qualities they need in order to follow him, they must also be perceptive, aware of what’s going on, and able to think quickly on their feet. The world is not always a friendly place, and the disciples have a long, hard road to tread. They are going to need to acquire some survival skills for the journey ahead. 

The second part of today’s Gospel reading takes the story a little further. Here is the epic come-back we’ve been waiting for: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10). “If you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” (v. 12). Jesus is saying that our lives will be defined by our actions and by our inaction. If we act in a selfish and greedy manner, like the dishonest manager, then we will lead empty lives, no matter how clever or shrewd we are. Because he is dishonest, the manager presumably has no friends, or at least no one close enough to him that he feels comfortable asking them to house him when he loses his job. What a lonely existence, thinking only of ourselves. 

However, if we conduct our lives with even a little bit of faith, no matter how imperfect, we will be entrusted with “true riches” (v. 11): friendship, community, fulfillment. If the manager had been honest and a good steward of the master’s possessions, then if he had been fired from his job he probably wouldn’t have had to worry about where to stay or what to do next.

In this country we live our lives under the banner of individualism. This has led to many important things: unprecedented freedoms, innovation, and creativity. But in the same vein this individualism has masked some pretty ugly qualities as well: entitlement, self-absorption, and the thought of wanting our fair share, no matter how it affects others. Naturally, we all desire what is best for us and our families, but at what cost? At what point do we draw the line between survival and selfishness? 

This is why it is so important for us to come together to worship on a regular basis, instead of just doing it on our own. When we worship together we learn from one another’s experiences. Old and young, we have things to teach each other. Hearing someone else’s perspective can affect the way we view the world. Listening to someone else’s passions can ignite a passion in ourselves. Having a conversation with someone in the pew next to us can alert us to the needs of the community. 

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus surrounds himself with people. He takes time off to pray and relax, but he also makes time to eat and drink with friends and foes alike. They might not always get along, but they learn from each other and bring balance to the conversation. Occasionally, a conversation with someone even changes Jesus’ mind (Matthew 15:21-28). 

It is important to note in today’s passage that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, but there are also Pharisees listening in, and in the next few verses we find that they don’t take too kindly to Jesus’ teachings. They are used to being the ones in charge, of leading others in matters of faith. But this rabbi from Nazareth points out that their desire to follow the Law so strictly has made them blind to the suffering of their people. The biggest problem the Pharisees have is that they place rules above people. They see only how far their people have strayed from the Law, and don’t take into account how hard they are trying. In their quest for religious purity the Pharisees have alienated themselves from the very people they are trying to teach. 

Another problem the Pharisees have is that they are “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). In the answer to today’s strange parable, Jesus says that we “cannot serve God and wealth” (v. 13). Wealth, in this instance, can also mean money or possessions ( Possessions are inanimate objects. If you love them, they cannot love you back. But if you devote your time to pursuing them, your possessions will begin to slowly possess you. Retail therapy may feel good in the short run, but over time we will look around at all that stuff and realize that it has never filled the void, only put blinders on for awhile.  

“You cannot serve God and [possessions]” (v. 13). In this day and age, with all the new gadgets and technology, when information--and therefore advertising--is instantaneous, we are constantly being reminded of all of the things we lack, all we need to accomplish,  all that we “can’t live without.” We want the car, the gadgets, the career. And the more we focus on what we want, the less we think about others (I’m saying we because I am not immune from this either). We end up putting God in a box on a shelf that we can only reach with a step ladder. It’s safer that way, because then God is out of sight, not constantly reminding us of where our priorities should lie. 

But God will not be contained in a box. When we come together to worship, we help hold each other accountable. We collectively remember our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. We pray for those we love and for those we find it difficult to love. We share a message of peace with those around us. We come to realize how fortunate we really are as we thank God for our many blessings. We come to the table and eat together, sharing in the broken body in all of our own brokenness. Finally we leave, restored, refreshed, and renewed for service out in the world. 

So today we are called to put aside our selfish desires and focus on loving others, within this community and without. Have a conversation with someone you don’t know as well during breakfast/coffee hour, really listen to that person who you don’t agree with at work or school, reach out to someone who looks like they’re going through a rough time at the grocery store. It will cost us some time and effort, yes, but we will find our experience to be that much richer.

Here's a song about possessions I think fits the theme for today's Gospel reading:

Mountains of Things performed by The Duhks 
and Jonathan Scales on steel drums
(I went to college with Jonathan!!)

The life I've always wanted 
I guess I'll never have
I'll be working for somebody else 
Until I'm in my grave 
I'll be dreaming of a live of ease 
And mountains Oh mountains o' things 

To have a big expensive car
Drag my furs on the ground 
And have a maid that I can tell
To bring me anything 
Everyone will look at me with envy and with greed 
I'll revel in their attention 
And mountains Oh mountains o' things 

Sweet lazy life 
Champagne and caviar 
I hope you'll come and find me 
Cause you know who we are 
Those who deserve the best in life 
And know what money's worth 
And those whose sole misfortune 
Was having mountains o' nothing at birth 

Oh they tell me 
There's still time to save my soul 
They tell me 
Renounce all 
Renounce all those material things you gained by 
Exploiting other human beings 

Consume more than you need 
This is the dream
Make you pauper 
Or make you queen 
I won't die lonely 
I'll have it all prearranged 
A grave that's deep and wide enough 
For me and all my mountains o' things

Mostly I feel lonely 
Good good people are
Good people are only 
My stepping stones 
It's gonna take all my mountains o' things 
To surround me 
Keep all my enemies away
Keep my sadness and loneliness at bay 

I'll be dreaming, dreaming... Dreaming...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

taking a stand against evil

All Saints’, Rehoboth Beach
Proper 19, Year C, September 15, 2013
Here are today's readings.

May the words I speak and the words you hear be God’s alone. Amen.

Fifty years ago, more than a thousand students aged 6 and up marched peacefully to Birmingham City Hall to urge the mayor to end segregation. Many were arrested and put in jail, but others came back to protest again the next day. This time they were greeted by policemen who attacked them with batons, hoses, and dogs. The pictures from the Birmingham Children’s Crusade shook the world and motivated people in the country to action. 

Four months later, fifty years ago today, in the same city, folks were making their way to church, just like we did today. They chatted with their friends, they prayed, and the children headed down to Sunday School. The lesson that day was “The Love that Forgives.” But they never got to hear it. While the secretary of the class was taking attendance, a bomb exploded, injuring 22 people and killing four girls ages 11 and 14. The 16th St. Baptist Church was the largest African-American church in Birmingham, AL, and because they had the space, many civil rights meetings were being conducted there. Four members of the local KKK decided to take matters into their own hands and planted a time-delayed bomb in the early hours of the morning. In the midst of the rubble one stained glass window remained: an image of Jesus leading children.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in Birmingham. By then the city had changed in many ways; in my neighborhood black and white children were not only neighbors but we ran around and rode our bikes together without a second thought. When I was in the third or fourth grade my class took a field trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. I don’t remember much about it, except for one thing. Near the end of the museum they have an exhibit of a bus. The bus was mangled and had huge chunks missing from where it had been bombed while people were inside. I sat down on the floor and stared at the bus, tears streaming down my face as my 8 or 9 year old sheltered self imagined and tried to process the evil that caused such a thing to happen. 

The scriptures for today speak of evil, sin, and times of darkness as well. Jeremiah recounts a vision of destruction. God is upset with the Israelites for turning away from God and worshiping other gods. After all that God has done to save the Israelites from the land of Egypt and bring them to the promised land, they repay God with unfaithfulness. God has put up with their infidelity long enough. The Babylonians are on their way, and God will not stop them. Likewise, in the psalm, the people are all sinners: “every one has proved faithless” (Psalm 14:3). The people have lost sight of morals, and are on the path to self-destruction. In 1 Timothy, the author speaks in the voice of Paul, recounting his violent past, calling himself the “foremost” of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15). And finally, in the reading from Luke, Jesus gets in trouble with the Pharisees because he hangs out with the wrong crowd: “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 15:1).

If you’re like me, it may have been difficult this beautiful morning to say, “Thanks be to God” after the readings. Like me, you may be a bit overwhelmed by all this focus on sin and evil and destruction. Society is already fixated on all that is wrong with the world; we can’t listen to the news anymore without coming away feeling disheartened. We need some Good News. Where is the hope in today’s message? Well, I’m glad that you asked. 

While every passage today speaks of sin and evil, every passage also contains glimmers of hope and Good News. While the Babylonian army fast approaches the people of Israel, bringing with them yet another period of trial and oppression, Jeremiah foresees that God “will not make a full end” of them (Jer 4:27). They will go through difficult times, but God will not let them be utterly destroyed. In Psalm 14, although the people have turned away from God, “the Lord will be their refuge” (Psalm 14:6). The Psalm promises that the people will rejoice “when the LORD restores the fortunes of his people” (vs. 7). Not if but “when” (ibid.). They will not be left alone despite their propensity for sin and corruption. God will turn things around. The author of 1 Timothy reminds us that formerly, Paul has been an enemy of Christ and a persecutor of Christians. But then he experiences the grace and love of Christ, and comes away transformed. If God can show mercy to this man who worked so tirelessly to destroy Christianity, then no one is beyond God’s reach. As the author says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). We see proof of this in the Gospel reading for today. Jesus not only speaks with, he dines with--participates in something as intimate as sharing a meal with--tax collectors and sinners. He illustrates his mission of redemption with some beautiful images, first of a shepherd and his lost sheep, and then of a widow and her lost coin. These images describe a God who loves us so much that God will drop everything else to find us when we get lost. Jesus proclaims that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Don’t you get it? he is telling the Pharisees. My mission is to restore the relationship between God and God’s people. You see these people as nothing more than the sins they have committed. But I tell you that no one, not even these people whom you deem unworthy--not even you in your self-importance--no one is beyond the reach of God’s saving embrace. Now that is Good News. 

Evil is still very much present today. Poverty, famine, war, and preventable diseases are found in many parts of the earth. We do not have to look far to find it: even in our own beautiful beach community the residents of West Rehoboth live in inadequate housing and others have no homes at all. We are called to go out and take a stand against the evil in this world. We head out into the world equipped with the knowledge of God’s love and mercy. We head out into the world fueled by Communion--Jesus’ body and blood, shed for us all. And we head out into the world strengthened by worshiping in the company of this amazing community. The world is broken, as are we all, but we know that evil does not have the last word. God has overcome it, God is overcoming it, and God will continue to overcome it until the kingdom has been fully realized and the last vestiges of evil are but a distant memory. 

And so we head out into the world, praying for the Lord’s guidance. In the words of today’s collect, we ask God to “mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

May 2, 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade

Image found here.

Image found here.

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September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Image found here.

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Image found here.

Information on events Birmingham:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

the hard work of discipleship

St. George's Chapel, Harbeson, DE
Proper 18, Year C
September 8, 2013

May the words I speak and the words you hear be God's alone. Amen

The Gospel according to Luke is probably my favorite version of the Gospel. The author is a great storyteller, so much so that he even changes his dialect based on the region he is telling a story about! Luke contains some of the most recognized and beloved stories found in the Bible: the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are only found in this gospel. Not only is Luke a good storyteller, he is also an advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized; women have a greater role in this Gospel than in any of the others. I love Luke. But every so often I come across a passage that really challenges me. Today’s reading is one of those passages. 

"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (14:26). 

If you’re like me, on hearing this your thought process went something like this: 
“Now wait just a minute, Jesus. You want me to do what? You want me to hate everyone, including myself, otherwise I can’t follow you? Have you lost your mind?! What happened to all the “love your neighbor and your enemy” stuff? And doesn’t one of the ten commandments tell us to “honor your father and mother”? What is going on?

Did any of you feel that way? (Please tell me I’m not alone in this). 

At first glance, Jesus’ words in this passage make it seem like he has spent one too many days on the road being followed by a large crowd. Here’s where going back to the original Greek comes in handy. You see, the Greek word miséō can mean “hate”, but it can also mean “lov[ing] someone or something less than someone or something else” (Strong’s concordance). The second meaning makes much more sense in this context. Jesus is not telling us that we have to hate our loved ones; he is using exaggeration to make a point. Jesus wants to make sure that we don’t love our parents, our spouses, our siblings, our kids, and ourselves, as much as we love God. God has to come first. After all, the greatest commandment is "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5). God has to be your priority; everything else is secondary. 

Making God a priority is difficult; it takes effort and discipline. Believe me; I know--I’m in the midst of moving to a new state and starting a new job and planning a wedding and I am finding it extremely difficult to make anything a priority outside of those three things. This past month I admit that I have not made enough time for God, and I have found myself a bit--shall we say frazzled? In worrying about a million little things like what kind of wedding cake to get and where to hang my pictures and where to print my sermon, I have missed opportunities to sit still for awhile and thank God for the beauty of creation and the many blessings that have come my way. Without the grounding of a strong relationship with God, it’s really easy to get so caught up in work or school or friends or family or success or failure that we can lose sight of what is important. We can get so overwhelmed that we think that we’re going through everything on our own. We might even begin to start living from one big hurdle to the next, forgetting what a blessing it is to be alive. This is why Jesus says that we cannot be his disciples (v. 26). It’s not that he won’t allow us to be his disciples, it just means that if we don’t make God a priority, we will be physically, mentally, and spiritually unable to be his disciples. We can reorient ourselves and our lives by making time to pray, serve, read Scripture, and worship with fellow Christians who understand the cost of discipleship. 

And there is a cost. “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (v. 26). God doesn’t want us for fair-weather friends; we are to live out our lives constantly reorienting ourselves back to Christ. In 1878 the city of Memphis, Tennessee, was struck by a plague of yellow fever. The town, right on the Mississippi River, was a hotbed for mosquitos, which, unbeknownst to the people back then, carry the disease. When the disease began spreading, those who could afford it, roughly 30,000 people, fled the city. But another 20,000 did not have the means to escape. The Cathedral of St. Mary was right in the most infected part of the city. Knowing that their lives were in danger, a group of Episcopal and Roman Catholic nuns and priests, as well as some devoted lay people, remained in the city to help nurse the sick and dying and take care of orphans. 

90% of people who remained behind contracted the disease, and 5,150 people perished. The city of Memphis became so depopulated that they lost their charter, not getting it back for another 14 years. Would you stay behind and help if you knew that there was a 25% chance that you would die? Thirty-eight of the religious people who stayed behind ended up dying of the disease. One of the first of these brave men and women to die was Constance, the Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary that lived in the Cathedral. Each year on September 9th, we remember the Christian love and dedication shown by her and the other disciples, known as the Martyrs of Memphis. Although most of us will never have to face a choice like theirs, their witness is meant to help us in our day-to-day struggles with discipleship.  

Being a disciple is hard work, and Jesus wants to make sure that we know what we’re in for when we sign up. If we come into it thinking that life is all roses, we’re going to be disappointed and hurt. In the journey of discipleship, just as in life, there are ups and downs. Christianity is not a fad diet. We don’t just try it out to see if it works and move on to the next when we don’t get the outcome we wanted. If we want to see results, we have to do the hard work; we have to make a complete lifestyle change. And we’re going to need God’s grace to get through it. 

As the theologian, pastor, and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote in his aptly titled book, The Cost of Discipleship, “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship). 

Jesus, God living among us, freely offered up his earthly life so that we could follow him on the path to life everlasting. A life with a heavenly feast (Luke 13:29-33) and a house with many rooms prepared for us (John 14:2-4). A life where “God will wipe away every tear” from our eyes (Revelation 7:17) and where “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (ibid.). A life in the presence of God Almighty. 

We don’t become disciples of Jesus because of the rewards in this life. Being a disciple does not guarantee that our time on earth will be easy or successful; there will be times when we will have to make sacrifices for what we believe. But, like the martyrs of Memphis, we believe that the cost of discipleship is outweighed by the reward of the life to come. In thanksgiving, we come together to worship, praise, and serve our amazing God. When the going gets rough, we are here for each other; we pick each other up when we fall down, we help reorient each other to God when we stray, we give each other hope when we become weary. I am honored and blessed to be journeying on this road of discipleship with you.

Image found here.

Information on Constance and her companions found at these sites: