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Daily Devotion – September 29, 2017
09.29.17

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Matthew 21:23

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

Who gives you authority? As a hospice chaplain, a large part of my training was, and actually still is, answering and pondering this question.  Do I have authority because I am a white male? Does my authority come because my voice is louder than all the other voices in the room? I know the rules and follow them therefore, I have authority.  Is my authority based on my financial status?  Surely, those with more money know better than those who do not have as much.  These are all false notions of authority.  Those who live with authoritative notions like these, that is, because of my status in society I have control over you, will find one that it takes a lot of work to maintain them and that they usually fail at some point.

Jesus came to offer a different kind of authority: that of a servant.  Jesus did not come into this world as a king crowned with riches and wealth.  He came as a poor carpenter that spoke out against the abuse of power he saw the religious teachers of his time proclaiming.  He healed the blind and the sick.  He ate with the outcast of society.  He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey not on a stallion.  The authority of Jesus did not come from the world, as the devil tried to convince him of when he wandered in the desert, but from being a child of God.

There is a distinct difference between those who use who they are as a creature of God to empower and serve others and those who use who they are as a way to enforce fear and control over others.  As a minister, as a chaplain, I must be constantly aware of how I am using my self when I am caring for others.  Am I seeking ways to empower them or am I just enforcing the fear that exists within them? We all have this choice to make whenever we are relationship with another.   As the scripture says, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave who this authority?”  Just as Jesus was asked this question, we should also be asking it to ourselves.

Prayer:

God who gives us authority to care for your creation, I come to you and ask for you to make yourself more present to us.  Teach us and guide us as we learn how to empower and give hope to those who are afraid and suffering.  May we always use our authority with the intention of making your kin-dom a reality.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – September 27, 2017
09.27.17

 

Philippians 2:3-5

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

 

Devotion by Julia Shiver

We talk a lot about being Christ’s hand and feet, his body in the world.  And I see that work as we welcome the homeless to our church home with the Family Promise program.  We each have gifts and talents that are used to provide hospitality to others in need.  But the most important aspect of this program is that we are all in agreement that this is something we as a community think is important, that we are willing to put ourselves to work to help others.  It is when our minds, and hearts, are in agreement that we can further God’s kindom on earth.

 

Prayer:

Dear God, Thank you for all you have blessed us with.  We use these resources and talents to serve others in your name.  Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – September 26, 2017
09.26.17

Philippians 2:1-2

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

 

Devotion by Lynne Buell

Like most folks, I prefer to be around happy, content people.  You must admit, laughter is infectious.  While we cannot always be cheerful, if you have faith, you know that times of misery and despair soon pass.  Blissfulness comes from within.  Faith produces pleasure.  To feel the Holy Spirit within is contentment.

Prayer:

Loving God, I pray that I am able to release the joy of Your love to others.  Help me to keep a positive outlook, specifically to people who are hurting or in sorrow.  Amen.   

 



Sermon: “A Covenant of Love” (Gen. 9:12-17) [9/24/17]
09.25.17

When I was 8, an area near where we lived in north Florida flooded.  Distressed by it all, I asked Mom, “But didn’t God promise never to let a flood happen again?”  She reminded me that in God’s promise after the flood in Genesis, God promised never again to destroy the whole earth and all living creatures by flood.  That didn’t mean localized flooding might not happen.

Even as a youngster, that sounded like “spin” to me.  I’m not sure of the exact route of the conversation, but we quickly got into a discussion of free will and the sovereignty of God, though we didn’t use those words.  We talked about whether people are just puppets doing whatever God wants, or if we have freedom to make our own decisions.  Mom opted for not- puppets.  That made sense to me.

I’m not sure, but that conversation might have been the starting point of my call to ministry.  The questions we were wrestling with felt big and real.  So big and real, in fact, that I’m still trying to work out precisely what God’s promise in Genesis 9 means.

I wonder how many 8 year olds in Texas or Florida or St. Martin or Puerto Rico this week are asking their parents about God’s promise never to destroy the earth or its creatures by flood.  Or how many people in Mexico are questioning the love of God in the rubble of buildings destroyed by two earthquakes in as many weeks.

Harvey.  Irma.  Maria.  Earthquakes.  Monsoons.  Mudslides.  Where is God in all this environmental upheaval?  Where are we in the midst of all this environmental upheaval?

So–climate change.  As the daughter of a scientist, I hold firmly to the fact that current upheavals in climate are the direct result of human activity.  Even so, I’ve been thinking about the argument some make—that, yes, climate is changing, but if you look at things across the eons, climate change is a constant.  From earth’s beginning, there have been ice ages and warming atmospheres, floods and droughts, earthquakes and hurricanes.  Everything is cyclical.  What we’re experiencing now is simply part of the evolutionary ebb and flow.

As an evolutionist, I like that argument…especially when you incorporate into the natural unfolding of evolution the evolution of the human brain, which has dreamed up things–the mass production of automobiles, for example– that have directly affected the environment.  When you think about it, the evolutionary argument makes a lot of sense.

Less satisfying, though, is the realization that, while climate change might be the result of a naturally unfolding evolutionary process, that process often has resulted in mass extinctions.  And dinosaurs were a much heartier lot than we human beings are. The earth might do just fine without us, but I’d like to see the human race continue for a good long while.

So now I’m beginning to wonder if the tack I’ve been taking in my own thinking might have been a little off.  For myself, and in my work as pastor, I’ve been focusing on caring for creation for creation’s sake, to love creation for itself, because creation is part of our family.  We’re all siblings, equally-beloved progeny of a loving, Creator God.

That approach certainly is theologically sound.  Living in a symbiotic and mutual relationship with creation is a key part of a vibrant faith.

The more I think about it, though, the more convinced I become that for people of faith–as much as we love creation–the more important reason to care for it, the most important reason to do everything we can to work for the mitigation of climate change is Jesus’ call to care for the least of these.  I’ve become convinced that we care for creation because we love people.  Caring for creation is a crucial way to act the least of these into wellbeing.

The devastation in Texas and the Caribbean have shown just how quickly people can be displaced by fiercer storms and rising sea levels.  Overpopulation is putting severe strains on reserves of potable water for much of the earth’s population.  In Africa, places where farming was once common, the ground no longer can sustain crops.

We’ve heard a lot about refugees the past couple of years.  Eleven million from the war in Syria—6 million internally displaced, 5 million who’ve fled the country.  In the last month alone, 415,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled genocide in Myanmar.  As severe as the current refugee crises are, another is coming that will dwarf all others—the climate refugee crisis.

Jeff Joslin, who volunteers with the Citizens Climate Lobby, also is a pilot.  He offered his services last week to help evacuate people from St. Martin after Hurricane Irma hit.

While waiting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to fly people to Atlanta, Jeff was able to speak with crews who had been in St. Martin right after Irma hit.  He writes, The crew that flew into St. Martin reported devastation on a scale they’d never seen before. Most of the buildings in the vicinity of the airport were destroyed or heavily damaged. People were sleeping in tents. Boats unnaturally rested in places only a storm would carry them. Despite a high need for evacuations, they said they had flown out with nearly 2/3 of their seats empty. Law enforcement personnel were only letting those with the proper paperwork into the airport…and many had lost passports or other documents in the storm. The flow of evacuees slowed to a trickle.

On board our flight to the States, some passengers said they left not knowing when or if they will ever return home.  That’s the statement that hit me in the gut, Joslin writes. Some of these folks have lost nearly everything . They were leaving their homes, loved ones, and pleasant memories for a future of uncertainty, recovery, and a leap into the unknown. 

Over the next few days, Joslin writes, it dawned on me that I had carried part of a whole new generation of climate refugees. Survivors from the Caribbean and Houston were joining with displaced people worldwide fleeing drought, storm-related natural disasters and low lying islands succumbing to rising seas. They joined the 65 million refugees who have fled their homes, living day to day as trauma survivors in search of the basics: safety, food, a warm, dry bed, and hope for their children’s future.

As people of faith, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the world’s needs.  Sometimes, wouldn’t you just like to turn off the world, like you turn off your TV?  With 24 news access, sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to do just that.

And sometimes, as President Teddy Roosevelt once said, we have to “Do what we can, with what we have, where we are.”  A couple of weeks ago, the message outside read:  “The rainbow is a sign of God’s promise.  Help your neighbor!”  The saying puzzled me at first.  What’s the connection between the rainbow as a sign of God’s promise and our helping our neighbor?  As I reflected on it, I realized that when God made the rainbow promise, already God was depending on us to help fulfill the promise.  The first version of the “Do what you can” quote I pulled up on the internet imposed the quote on top of a rainbow.  Exactly!  “The rainbow is a sign of God’s promise.  Help your neighbor.”  “Do what we can, with what we have, where we are.”

What's your favorite way to reward yourself? #dothybest #selflove www.values.com

In her newsletter article this month, Christy Stanley wrote this:  At the end of each worship service, we’re reminded that Jesus has no feet or hands on earth but ours. We are the body that carries out his love. We feed those of his flock who are hungry, we clothe the naked, we visit the lonely, and we house the homeless. I have to believe that Christ could handle all of these things on his own, but he uses us. That is because serving others does just as much for our souls as it does for the people we help. By becoming Jesus’ hands and feet, we become closer to him.  With that as her introduction, Christy went on to invite all of us to experience nearness to Jesus by helping out with Family Promise.

We’ve had lots of conversations recently about Family Promise.  We’re a relatively small congregation; we wondered if we have enough volunteers to make it work.  It’s a legitimate concern.  To help address it, I’m in the process of talking with some other faith groups in our area to see if we might enlarge our pool of volunteers.  You might know of others who would like to help serve.  I’m hopeful about that initiative.

Hosting Family Promise requires close attention to LOTS of logistics.  It’s important that we know what our resources are and offer only what we can realistically give.  In some of the conversations I’ve had this week, though, I’ve come to recognize that logistics are only a small part of our participation in Family Promise.  Camilla Worrell, Executive Director for Family Promise of Cobb County, has said two things about Pilgrimage’s participation.  First, she’s said that the diversity of our congregation is a real gift to the rest of the Family Promise network.  Second—and this is something she’s said from the beginning—“When guest families talk about Pilgrimage, they always say, ‘When we go there, we know we’re loved.’”  Until talking with Camilla this week, I didn’t realize that among congregations in the Family Promise network, we are a leader…not in our facility or other resources, but in love.  We lead with love.  Which is kind of the whole point of the Jesus thing, right?

I had a conversation this week about what “preaching the good news” entails.  I know naming the world’s troubles doesn’t often feel like good news.  In fact, it often leads to despair.

Here’s what I’m starting to wonder, though.  I’m starting to wonder if the good news isn’t so much something we proclaim as something we live?  Have you ever thought that maybe WE are God’s good news?   Maybe it is our actions, our service to others, our hospitality, and our advocacy, that proclaim God’s good news to the hurting world.  Maybe we are God’s best hopes for the world.  Are we God’s good news?  If so, “Start spreading the news…”

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2017



Daily Devotion – September 24, 2017

Matthew 20: 1-16

The Labourers in the Vineyard

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

 

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

 

This story has always caused me angst. I’m sure if I were one of the first hired, I would have grumbled as well. I’ve always been taught to try and be fair. Play fair, work fair.

This parable is similar to those who seek redemption, ask for forgiveness and by the grace of God, enter heaven. It doesn’t matter if you’ve led a pious life or seek God the minute before you pass from this earth. The only thing that matters is that one acknowledges sin, seeks forgiveness and believes.

In a way, it is fair. For those who seek God earlier are comforted for a longer time. One may think that living God-free would be wonderful. But is it really? Isn’t living with God more wonder full?

 

Prayer

Dear Lord, I thank you for revealing yourself to me. I thank you for wrapping your loving arms around me. I thank you for being my friend. I hope I’m a good friend to you. Amen.



Daily Devotion – September 23, 2017
09.23.17

Exodus 16:2-3

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

 

Devotion by Rochelle Lofstrand

In my house, we often use the expression: “This is an episode of Good Idea/ Bad Idea.”  For example, we decide to replace the ceiling fan in our bedroom on our own.  In the middle of the operation when wires are sticking out everywhere, our fingers are bleeding and numb, and sweat mixes with tears as they both run down our faces we say it . . . “this is an episode of good idea/bad idea.”  It sounded like a good idea but we quickly realized it was a bad idea.  That is exactly what the Israelites are doing in today’s scripture.  It sounded like a good idea to leave Egypt – the plagues, the death, the torture – but now life in the wilderness is a little harder than expected and the Israelites are romanticizing about what life in Egypt was like – lots of food, time to enjoy, everything they needed.

It is hard to trust in God but it is even harder to trust in God when things are really bad.  But that is exactly when we need to trust even more.  If the people of Israel knew what the end of the journey looked like, they would trust God implicitly but they/we don’t know what the future looks like, only God holds that knowledge.  That is faith.

 

Prayer

God, I know that my faith in you needs to be great, especially during difficult times, but that sometimes I waiver like the Israelites.  I pray for grace during these times so that my faith in you remains strong.  AMEN.



Daily Devotion – September 22, 2017
09.22.17

Romans 8:26

 

  1. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

 

Reflection by Darlene Wagner

 

While there is nothing detrimental about written or memorized prayer, spontaneous prayer or wordless meditation is often how the believer carries on conversation with the Divine.  “Extemporaneous” prayer was a key focus of George Fox, the 17th-century founder of the Society of Friends (i.e., Quakers).  During Fox’s time, predetermined, liturgical prayers were the rule throughout both Protestant and Catholic communities.  Memorized prayers, particularly the repetitive prayers characteristic of the Rosary can be helpful in reaching a state of meditation.   However, Fox and other Quakers introduced wordless, silent intimacy with the Spirit to Christianity.

 

Meditative Invocation to Divine Mother

 

In valleys of my daytime toil, Dear Queen,

You’re by my side a prayer’s breath away!

While on your mountaintop domains I feel

Intoxicated by your gentle grace!



Daily Devotion – September 21, 2017
09.21.17

Romans 8: 24-25

24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Devotion by Anne Mooney

When I was little, my daddy used to take me and my sisters on “Secrets.”  These were special times we had alone with our dad.  We went somewhere special and often received small gifts as well.  We looked forward to our “Secrets.”  We never knew ahead of time where we would go and what we would do, but we were always full of a great and grand hope for what the “Secret” would be.  Secrets were spontaneous, occurring when Daddy discovered a window of opportunity.  He always knew whose turn was next, so off one of us would go on an adventure.

I think the hope my sisters and I had for our “Secrets” must be like the hope the author of Romans is referring to in this passage.  The salvation we wait for is unknown.  We don’t know what it is like to live fully in God’s kindom, nor do we know when it will arrive, but we hope for it.  In hoping for God’s kindom, we also work for God’s kindom, for we follow Jesus’ example.  We don’t wait passively.  We wait and work like Jesus.

Prayer

Dear Mother-Father God, Thank you for the gift of hope and the encouragement it brings us.  We look forward to a time when we all live in your Kindom.  Amen

 



Daily Devotion – September 20, 2017
09.20.17

“A Prayer of Peace”

By Monty Wyne

 

STOP THE NOISE!

Silence the dissension…

that fills the halls of power.

Let me find a quiet meadow

to lay my thoughts.

May they bloom into

the tender rose of life.

May all I hear tomorrow

be the soothing trill of the WHippoorwill.

Listen to your heart,

put your weary mind at ease.

Ignore the rabble-rousers.

Turn the voices of dissent

into forgotten whispers.

Send the dissidents, the mean of heart,

to the mountains of understanding

and the caverns of remorse.

Place the canons of hatred and disgust

in the room with no sound…

Let the winds of laughter and glee

carry the evil that lurks in life’s corners

to the distant shores of nowhere.

Why?  Why?  does “peace” elude us?

When the answer lies just beneath the moon.



Sermon: “How Shall We Pray for Creation?” (Rom. 8:18-27) [9/17/17]
09.18.17

I called my mom Monday night so we could compare notes on Irma.  “I went out to see if I could get some gas,” she told me.  “But Mom!  Everybody’s supposed to stay indoors until Tuesday!”  “I know,” she said.  “But I only have 4 gallons of gas.  I wanted to go out and see if any gas stations were open.  None were.”  Which meant she now had less than 4 gallons.  “How am I going to get to my bridge games without gas?”  That’s my mom.  ��

I suspect Mom mostly wanted to see what damage the storm had done.  She mentioned that trees were down, some of them twisted off, as if they’d been hit by tornadoes.  “It was a ghost town,” Mom said.  Because everyone else was staying home like they were supposed to!!!

The pull to see damage done by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is strong, isn’t it?  All that water.  All that destruction.  Or the flooding and mudslides in southern Asia and Africa.  I’m not sure what that’s about, the need to see pictures of the aftermath of natural disasters.  Maybe it’s because we’re just trying to wrap our minds around it.  Seeing houses submerged in several feet of water is surreal.  It takes a minute for our minds to make sense of what we’re seeing.  Imagining the devastating loss to the houses’ owners and what it will take to clean up and rebuild…that can get overwhelming very fast.  Or maybe we view those pictures out of relief that we can view them…that we’re safely ensconced in our own homes, watching the coverage on our TVs or laptops, gazing out on our dry yards.

Or maybe…we seek out pictures of natural disasters because we want to see how our family’s doing…not our family family (unless they were in the path of the storm).  Our creation family.

A couple weeks ago, we looked at Psalm 139:15 which says, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”  That image of being “intricately woven in the depths of the earth”– there is a sense in which dirt runs through our veins, isn’t there?…because we are one with creation.  We are part of creation.

The theme of our kinship—our one-ness–with creation continues today in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Creation suffers; we suffer.  Creation groans; we groan.  Creation is not yet what it will be; we aren’t yet what we will be.  Creation awaits–hopes for–redemption, for transformation.  We also await and hope for redemption and transformation.  And God’s Spirit intercedes for us all–we ourselves and the rest of creation, too.  God’s Spirit seeks only and always to act all of creation, including ourselves, into wellbeing.

This text is rich, theologically dense.  It would be a delight to take it apart layer by layer and experience all the wisdom it has to offer…but that would take long enough we’d probably have to stay overnight.  I don’t want to wear anyone out before we host Family Promise.

So, I invite us to focus on the first two verses, which read:  “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”  Paul acknowledges the suffering of the present age.  Paul was well-acquainted with suffering.  As a Pharisee, he’d inflicted a lot of it.  As a Christian missionary, he’d received a lot of it.

In these verses, Paul sets suffering in its larger context.  Why is there suffering in the first place? He asks.  It’s because we’ve been created–human beings and the rest of creation–with a sell-by date.  Decay of our bodies, of creation’s body, is part of lived experience.  Our sell-by date, though, is a gift.  When we know our finitude, life becomes more precious…the desire to make it better, to grow, to act it into wellbeing has more meaning.

…which is why, I suspect, Paul says– “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”  Creation waits for human beings to become who they are created by God to be because as human beings become who they are created by God to be, creation will be empowered to become more fully itself, as well.  Creation longs, is desperate for human beings to become our best selves.  Its survival depends on it.  Because we are all connected.  We’re all related.  We’re all part of the same family.  We are kin.

In all the debate we hear these days about climate change and earth care and deregulation, that’s the piece that always seems to be missing.  It’s like creation is something apart from us, something we have to control or protect.  It’s like creation is some thing that’s completely separate from us.

This idea that we are kin with creation isn’t just a theological concept; it’s also a scientific fact.  NASA scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson said this:  “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

I wonder how all the debates about climate change would change if we remembered—and felt—our kinship with earth?  I wonder how our prayers might change?

So…how shall we pray for creation?  How shall we love it?  How shall we act creation into wellbeing?

I could tell you how to pray for creation; I could give you a list.  I could tell you how to love creation, how to act it into wellbeing…but each of you has your own relationship with creation.  Praying for creation isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.  Each of us prays for creation in our own way, based on our own personal relationship with it.  You’re going to know way better than I will what way is best for you to pray for creation.

So, here’s what let’s do.  Take a few minutes to either turn around in your chair and look out the windows, or look out the doors and reconnect with creation.  You might also remember a time when you were out in creation…if so, put yourself back in that place.  Close your eyes if you need to.  Do you want to know how to pray for creation, how to love it, how to act it into wellbeing?  Ask it…  (Three minutes of silence)

IMG_1146

Each of us prays for creation in our own way.  Some of us with words, some of us with silence, some of us with groans…some of us pray with outdoor play, while others of us pray with advocacy…  And some of us just sit quietly in meditation.  We have many ways to pray for creation.  As we close, hear how St. Francis prayed for and through creation in the 13th century.

Praised be You, my beloved, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my beloved, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

That’s how Francis prayed creation.  How will you pray for creation?  How will you love it?  How will you act it into wellbeing?   (Silence)

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.