Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

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Featured Sermon: “In Christ There Is No East Nor West…”

Sermon from 1-22-2017, Epiphany 3A
Preached by the Rev Benedict Varnum at St Augustine of Canterbury in Elkhorn, NE

 

Have you had any conversations about unity and division this past week?

 

There’s a great hymn, In Christ There is No East nor West — Hymn 529 in the Hymnal in front of you. Its second lyric — “In Christ no south or north” might sound like a direct reminder of the US Civil War, and for years I assumed that was why the hymn was written.

 

But I looked it up this week and I was wrong. Turns out, the text of this hymn was a poem by a British poet writing under the pen name “John Oxenham,” originally for a gathering on the theme of The Orient in London. That is, it was written to reflect on the unity between Eastern and Western influences in British public life, in the earliest days of the 1900s, as cultures clashed and reconciled. The music was added in 1925.

 

There’s a story, perhaps true, that during WWII, two ships containing, respectively, Japanese and American alienated persons about to be re-patriated, were anchored alongside one another, their occupants glaring across the waters … until someone took up this hymn, and suddenly both sides began singing it back and forth (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories).

 

The words from the full hymn are drawn from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in the Bible — 3:28, in which Paul writes There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. That, of course, was one of the most powerful messages of the early days of the Gospel, and one we still need to hear.

 

But where we hear the echoes of the North and South in the US Civil War, the earliest followers of Jesus might have heard echoes of the “North” and “South” they knew as well.

 

What you may know (or may have forgotten) about the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament, is that way back in the First Book of Kings, there’s the story of how the Twelve Tribes that God brought out of Egypt became divided, later, into two kingdoms. This is in 1 Kings 12, and it is one of the pivotal scriptures of the Old Testament. It describes how ten of the twelve tribes became the Northern Kingdom of Israel, while two in the South remained the Kingdom of Judah — from which the words “Jew” and “Jewish” come.

 

The Northern Kingdom included the kingdoms of Zebulun and Napthali. There they were, up north of Jerusalem, between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, later generations would call this the region of Galilee … which is why the prophecy in Isaiah speaks of “Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles.” And when Isaiah was writing, he was writing with an awareness that Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first to fall to the Assyrian Empire that came. Isaiah was providing both the ancient and the contemporary names. Which means that in 740 BC, when Isaiah was writing, those were already old names.

 

So why does Matthew use them?

 

Because Jesus didn’t come for Judah in the South.

 

And Jesus didn’t come for Israel in the North.

 

Jesus came for all of the People of God. And Matthew — the Gospeller most in touch with his Jewish history and tradition — wants us to realize that this means God has come for the Lost Tribes, too, and not only the people of his nation.

 

This is the Jesus that John the Baptist proclaimed before his ministry began. John warned the Pharisees — the leaders of religion in his nation — that “God can raise up children to Abraham,” even from the stones of the River Jordan where he worked and taught. That is, being part of the tribe of Judah isn’t what saves you: God’s love, told by the Gospel of Jesus, is. That story is right before today’s readings, there in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 3.

 

This is the Jesus who came to gather all of us. He taught (in Luke 15) that the shepherd of 100 sheep will come and find even one that goes astray, or that a woman with a fortune of 10 coins will sweep out everything in her house to shine light on the floor and find even one that is lost.

 

This is the Jesus who traveled through the land of Samaria, unclean to Jews living under the ancient law, and he spoke to Samaritans. He spoke to women in public, also a forbidden action. He used Samaritans as an example of how to be faithful to God, to remind people that it is our actions, and not our ancestry, that unite us as a witness to God’s love and the Gospel that Jesus brought.

 

This is the Jesus who came and dwelled in Capernaum, in Galilee, in Zebulun and Naphtali — which are all names for places in that region north of Jerusalem by the Sea of Galilee — so that those who heard him would realize that the ten lost tribes were not to be lost any longer. All of God’s people are to be gathered back under the Good Shepherd.

 

So. Have you had any conversations about unity and division this past week?

 

Paul wrote to the earliest Church in Corinth in dismay at their divisions. He asked them, “Has Christ been divided?” He asks why they say “I belong to Paul,” or “Apollos” (a Greek name), or “Cephas” (which is the Aramaic name for “Peter,” with both words meaning “rock.”).

 

We might as readily ask of our divisions today: do some of us say, “I belong to Hillary?” and others “I belong to Sanders,” and others “I belong to Trump?”

 

But Paul might ask us, “Has Christ been divided?”

 

For none of these is the Messiah. None of these is the Christ. None of these is the shepherd who seeks to gather all together. And surely the Christ who spoke the Gospel to all, who forgave all from the Cross, is as much the Christ of those who are dismayed by Trump’s behavior as the Christ of those who feel that they were left behind these past eight years. Christ is the Shepherd of ALL sheep.

 

The name above all other names, as Paul reminded the Corinthians and the Phillippians and others, is Jesus Christ.

 

And today we hear the story from Matthew’s Gospel of how Jesus Christ calls us. How he began to call people to himself. The first moments in which he began the great work of gathering all people together again:

 

Jesus saw Simon-Peter, and Andrew, and called them to come with him. He told them “I will make you fishers of people.”

 

And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And he called to James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, and they left their father in the boat and followed him.

 

We are invited to take that journey too. We are invited to follow along with the Christ who went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

 

You, and I, are invited to let go of the fishing nets we think we need to sustain our way of life, and risk everything to follow the one who can teach us to make one another our life’s work instead. To become fishers of people.

 

We can let go of the nets that we use to ensnare and tangle one another in order to feed ourselves, and instead find true relationship with one another. We’ve known how to use those nets for all our lives, and they are familiar, and trusted, and have fed us this far. But they’re not the tools Jesus will teach us to use.

 

Because we are divided right now … just like Simon-Peter and Andrew and James and John once were. These and the other disciples were divided then! They argued about who Jesus was. They argued about which of them was the greatest disciple (Jesus once famously stopped them on the road to call them out about that!). They argued after Jesus rose into heaven about whether the Gospel was only for Jews or whether it was for Gentiles also. They had to come to terms with the question of whether they could trust their own unity in Christ.

 

But the great question for us now is whether we can hold to a greater unity than our divisions: the unity of understanding that we are all following Jesus?

 

 

In his sermon on the occasion of Tony Anderson’s ordination this past week, Bishop Barker preached about the division we find our country in: in which some find the character of the president-elect so reproachable that they cannot imagine that he will govern on behalf of all Americans … while others find the systems of power in our government to be so corrupt that they believe the act of voting for someone who promises to change them — however imperfect he may be himself — is an act of true patriotism.

 

I know that we reflect that exact diversity. And this is a serious spiritual challenge to our community: whether we can remain a loving family, committed to one another and to the Gospel of Jesus, in the face of our disagreements here.

 

Friends, brothers and sisters: I believe we can make it. I believe we have been building up the strength we will need for this journey day by day and year by year over the decades that this church has stood. Where we have learned how to work together in small ways, we will know how to work together in greater ones. And where we have weathered small disagreements, we will learn how to heal from larger ones.

 

God has taught us, over time, the way to succeed. That way involves placing Jesus and his Gospel first. That is always a step that guides us, and disrupts our allegiance to any earthly power or movement that falls short of God’s love, which includes all.

 

And it involves us really listening to each other. We need to be able to speak what is in our hearts, and hear what is in one another’s. We may not all be able to do that right away: this is a discipline, and it will take practice. It means listening without hoping to argue or change — only to understand. That’s a risk … but risks are the only thing that can deepen relationships, and deeper relationships are the only thing that can heal real division.

 

We may not always be sure whether someone wants to hear what we have to say, but we can take the risk of trusting them to hear it and still care about us, even if they disagree.

 

We may step on one another’s toes now and then … but wouldn’t we rather do that in honest daylight through trying to talk to each other?

 

And if we listen to God, maybe we can have conversations about unity and division that help us heal, instead of lament. That help us connect, instead of build barriers. That help us love, instead of shout down.

 

So maybe today is the day that you can drop the net that you think you need. Maybe today is the day to get out of the boat that represents one way of life, and once again take up the journey that follows Jesus. Maybe today is the day that you become a fisher of people — waiting to see what you can gather from the stories of the people around you … not so you can gobble them up and feed yourself, but so that you can be amazed by how many beautiful people and stories God has placed in the world.

 

Maybe as we travel ahead towards Lent and then Easter in these coming months, you can follow Jesus through Galilee, and Samaria, and Judah, and on into Jerusalem, carrying a Gospel too powerful to be destroyed by any Cross … even the cross of our own divided moment today.

 

So let us give thanks today, for a Christ who cares for the Northern Kingdom, as well as the Southern. For peoples from the East, as well as the West. And may you be heartened to follow him, today and always.

 

Amen.

Prayers for our nation

For Our Nation:

Almighty God, you have given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

For Social Justice:

Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 

We pray especially this week for President Donald Trump and all who are entrusted with our national, state, and local government, that they may do justice, and love mercy, and walk in the ways of truth, and we pray for those who are on the Women’s March in Washington D.C.

Angels Among Us

St. Martin of Tours Clothesline

St. Martin of Tours has a clothesline in its front yard where we put coats, hats, mittens, socks, etc. we collect in our Fall clothing drive. They are then picked up by people who need them, at any time of the day or night.

Recently, Deacon Robin McNutt headed outside to place the last of our coats on the line. When she got there, she saw that the clothesline was full of coats, scarves, blankets, hats, and even boots that had not been there before. An unknown angel had replenished the line with an abundance of warm items. Many of them have already been claimed by our South Omaha neighbors.

We are grateful for the angel or angels who brought the items. You have warmed our neighbors and our hearts.

Vicar Kim Roberts+

Trinity Cathedral Offers Prayer Vigil on Inauguration Day

 

The Prayer Vigil will begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM, and continue throughout the morning, concluding with the Holy Eucharist at 12:00 Noon. From 9:00 until 12:00 will be a time for silent prayer. People of all faiths are invited to stop into Trinity Cathedral for a few minutes, a few hours, or the entire morning to join us in the vigil.

Dean Craig Loya of Trinity Cathedral said that, “This is an opportunity to quiet ourselves and to offer our hearts and minds a chance to rest from the tension and noise of this uniquely difficult time in our nation’s history.” Brother James Dowd, of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, said, “The time we will spend together will be completely non-partisan. Our prayers will be offered for peace and justice in our country and throughout the world. We will simply offer our prayers and engage in meditation.”

Dean Loya went on to say, “The level of conflict and divisiveness we’ve seen this season is really unprecedented in recent memory. As people of faith, we are called to promote peace and reconciliation. We developed this vigil as a follow-up to the one we held on Election Day as a way of offering a sanctuary of peace in the midst of a tense time, and helping us all offer our lives, our leaders, and our nation to God’s care.”

The specific schedule for the day is as follows:

8:30 AM Morning Prayer
9:00 – 12:00 Silent Prayer/Meditation
12:00 Noon Holy Eucharist

 

At all other times there will be at least one person praying in the church. All are welcome to join in the silent meditation, the prayer services, or both. For further information, please contact Brother James Dowd at 402-342-7010.

 

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral • 113 North 18th Street (corner of 18th and Capitol) • 402-342-7010

 

 

Trinity Cathedral Offers Prayer Vigil on Inauguration Day

 

The Prayer Vigil will begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM, and continue throughout the morning, concluding with the Holy Eucharist at 12:00 Noon. From 9:00 until 12:00 will be a time for silent prayer. People of all faiths are invited to stop into Trinity Cathedral for a few minutes, a few hours, or the entire morning to join us in the vigil.

Dean Craig Loya of Trinity Cathedral said that, “This is an opportunity to quiet ourselves and to offer our hearts and minds a chance to rest from the tension and noise of this uniquely difficult time in our nation’s history.” Brother James Dowd, of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, said, “The time we will spend together will be completely non-partisan. Our prayers will be offered for peace and justice in our country and throughout the world. We will simply offer our prayers and engage in meditation.”

Dean Loya went on to say, “The level of conflict and divisiveness we’ve seen this season is really unprecedented in recent memory. As people of faith, we are called to promote peace and reconciliation. We developed this vigil as a follow-up to the one we held on Election Day as a way of offering a sanctuary of peace in the midst of a tense time, and helping us all offer our lives, our leaders, and our nation to God’s care.”

The specific schedule for the day is as follows:

8:30 AM Morning Prayer
9:00 – 12:00 Silent Prayer/Meditation
12:00 Noon Holy Eucharist

 

At all other times there will be at least one person praying in the church. All are welcome to join in the silent meditation, the prayer services, or both. For further information, please contact Brother James Dowd at 402-342-7010.

 

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral • 113 North 18th Street (corner of 18th and Capitol) • 402-342-7010

 

 

Poetry Corner: from spiralling ecstatically this

from spiralling ecstatically this


 

from spiralling ecstatically this
proud nowhere of earth’s most prodigious night
blossoms a newborn babe: around him, eyes
–gifted with every keener appetite
than mere unmiracle can quite appease–
humbly in their imagined bodies kneel
(over time space doom dream while floats the whole
perhapsless mystery of paradise)

 

mind without soul may blast some universe
to might have been, and stop ten thousand stars
but not one heartbeat of this child; nor shall
even prevail a million questionings against the silence of his mother’s

 

smile- whose only secret all creation sings.

 

e e cummings

From the Bishop: Epiphany 2017

Bishop J. Scott Barker

Bishop J. Scott Barker

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ –

 

We have a little creche in our house that was a long ago gift to our family. It’s a small, wooden affair, with simple hand painted figurines representing each of the characters that were part of the story of Jesus’ first days on earth. Like many families (and churches), the Magi who are part of this tableau actually make a long journey before they finally take their place at the scene where Jesus lays in his manger. They might start in our dining room in early Advent when we first unpack our holiday decorations for the year, and then they will move, a couple of feet at a time from the top of one piece of furniture to another, until finally on January 6th we place them in front of the baby who comes to save us all. There they will stay for the rest of this season, until finally just before Lent begins, we will pack them away until next year.

If we hope to encounter Jesus, we too must expect to journey. It will not do to sit still. Whether that journey is about entering into a new and challenging relationship with some sacred other who might be a Christ-Bearer to us, or entering into a season of deeper prayer and service to meet Jesus in the person of folk on our live’s margins, or whether it be a literal journey to a new place or community that beckons us to come meet the Holy One anew, we are not likely to maintain a healthy and growing relationship with Jesus if we allow ourselves to be seduced by the comfort of “staying put” in our lives, and imagining that we need only wait on God to fill the yearning we all share to know the Christ in a deeper way.

As the new calendar year dawns, and you’re beginning to live into your resolutions for the days ahead, I hope that you will take to heart the lesson of the Magi. If meeting and knowing Christ anew is a hope in your heart and soul, then make it a commitment to be out and on the move in the year to come.

And let the journey begin today.

 

Faithfully Yours in Christ –

+ Bishop Barker

DioNEB Men’s Spirituality Retreat February 17th-19th

The 2017 DioNEB Men’s Spirituality Retreat is at the St. Benedict Center, Schuyler, NE from 5:00 PM Friday, Feb. 17th to 12:00 noon Sunday, Feb. 19th

Join Fr. Randy Goeke and Fr. Jerry Ness as we explore God’s call to deeper relationship with Christ and each other.

Register at

http://mensretreat.episcopal-ne.org/retreat-registration.html

The Cost is $140 for a single and $120 for a double, per person, includes 2 night’s stay and 6 meals.
The Registration Deadline—February 1st, 2017

 

Here is the agenda

FRIDAY EVENING – Feb. 17

5:00 p.m. – Arrival & Check-in
6:15 p.m. – Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Evening Prayer in the Chapel
7:30 p.m. – Introduction to Weekend
Gathering Exercise – Bible Trivia
9:00 p.m. – Compline in the Chapel followed by Meditation & Time for Reflection – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups

 

SATURDAY – Feb. 18

Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Eucharist in the Chapel
10:00-10:15 First Meditation – A New Heart and a New Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
10:15-11:00 Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
11:00-11:15 Second Meditation – The Gathering of God’s People  (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
11:15-Noon Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*

12:15 – Lunch

1:00-1:15 – Third Meditation – Newness of Life (Romans 6:3-11)
1:15-2:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
2:00-2:15 – Fourth Meditation – The Resurrection (Luke 24:1-12)
2:15-3:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
3:00-6:15 – Quiet time*

6:15 p.m. Dinner

7:00-7:30 – Community Conversation
7:30 – Movie, games, quite time*
After Movie Compline in the Chapel

 

SUNDAY – Feb. 19

Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Holy Eucharist with healing in the Chapel
Depart

 

 

*During these times of quiet and meditation Fr. Jerry and Fr. Randy will be available for prayer, confession, direction, conversation, etc.

 

 

Here are links to downloadable resources for the retreat

Full-size poster with agenda in pdf format
Half-size poster with agenda  in pdf format
Title image in .png format
Poster page 1 in .png image format
Poster page 2 in .png image format

 

 

 

Jacob Manyang: Report from South Sudan

Jacob Manyang near the UNHCR refugee camp at Goba, South Sudan.

Here is a report from Jacob’s current trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp, and the work of the Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows humanitarian organization Jacob founded two years ago.

 

It’s always a joy to come back to the refugee camps and visit with our innocent brothers and sisters who are displaced into the camps due to war. After staying here in Kakuma for a week and a half, I have shared the pain that the people are going through and I understand their issues in more detail. The living situation here in Kakuma refugee’s camp is extremely difficult.

 

There are many issues, but most importantly:

  • Shortages of water
    There’s shortage of water due to an increasing number of the refugees that are coming into the camp from South Sudan and other countries that are affected by war. The temperature here in Kakuma is always hot because it’s nearly a desert and the wind blows throughout the day which makes the shortage of water a big concern.
  • Food insecurity
    The UN is now distributing two kilos of sorghum to an individual as food for a month. It uses to be one gallon of sorghum for a month which was not even enough for 15 days. However, it has been reduced to the level that makes it difficult for refugees to survive. The food that’s given to refugees monthly couldn’t even last 5 days if there’s no other support provided by the families abroad. Most of the people in Kakuma refugee’s camp survive because of the support that’s given to them by relatives abroad and from South Sudan. Beside food shortages, refugees in Kakuma are highly affected by the absence of medicine. Most people are malnourished.

 

In Bortown, we provided 500 mosquito nets to orphans, widows, and elders who couldn’t afford to buy them.

High temperature and wind blow sands throughout the day and that contributes to high fever, typhoid, kidney stones and many other diseases that are also a big concern to most of the refugees here. Kakuma is mainly a desert so it’s always hot during the day and night. It’s really sad that people here in Kakuma have struggled for many years and still there is no solution in sight to solve the issues that are affecting them. The camp is now crowded; the reception center at the Kenyan border is crowded to the level that they don’t have enough medicine for yellow fever.

 

All the people that are immigrating to Kakuma refugee’s camp in Kenya have to get yellow fever at the reception before they cross the border into Kenya. However, currently, there’s no medicine for yellow fever so they have to wait at the reception until the yellow fever vaccine is provided to them. Some families from South Sudan have tried to go to Kakuma in order to skip starvation. However, waiting at Kenyan border without food in order to first get yellow fever injection has become extremely difficult so some people have to return back to South Sudan.

 

In the face of the struggles refugees are facing here, they haven’t lost hope of a better tomorrow, so they are supporting themselves as one family with every little thing they have. If one family doesn’t have anything to eat they would get help from their neighbors and their neighbors will do the same thing for them if they face the same situation tomorrow. It’s very encouraging to see most of the families here in the camp are working together to make sure everyone is taken care of—even when they themselves don’t have basic resources for living.

 

Distribution of pens, pencils, and notebooks for adult education.

After I arrived in Kakuma with the idea of helping orphans and widows with basic education, I learned of an adult education program that has been run by a group of students who are dedicated to helping their elders with basic education. The teachers volunteer their time to teach. However, they don’t have any funding to buy chalk and textbooks for teaching. Since the students are willing to learn they sell half of their two kilos of sorghum that’s given to them as food for the whole month then they each give 300 Kenyan shillings to teachers so that they could buy supplies for teaching. The teachers also welcome students to learn even if they are not able to contribute 300 Kenyan shillings monthly (which is equal to $3.06).

 

The key challenges here faced by adult education is lack of support. The teachers and students are asking for your support so as you read this article, please consider helping this critical (and awesome) program. Teachers are volunteers and they would like to get paid even enough to cover their expenses for teaching supplies. There is a lack of a permanent place to teach because they are only allowed to teach adult education in the kindergarten school for 2 hours in the evening. Finally, students cannot afford to buy school supplies.

 

After meeting with adult education teachers and the director of adult education, we talked about the issues that are facing the program and as the result Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows has provided 360 notebooks for 60 students so each student gets 6 notebooks. We also provided two pens and pencils for each student. This was only a one-time assistance due to insufficient funding. However, Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows is hoping to continue supporting this adults education program when funding is available.

 

If you would like to help with this program or other programs run by (SSSOW) please visit our website at www.savesouthsudaneseorphansandwidows.org.

You can also “Like” us on Facebook by searching Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows.

 

To all my brothers and sisters aboard, our people are extremely suffering in the refugees camps and within South Sudan due to the on-going crisis. I know many of them are surviving today already only due to your support. I encourage you to continue this great work you are doing. Savings people lives is the best thing anyone could do. Help us promote awareness of the current crisis that’s facing refugees in the refugee camps and within South Sudan.

 

Your contribution is highly appreciated.

Yours in Christ,
SSSOW Founder: Jacob Maluak Manyang

 

You can follow Jacob’s work daily on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jacob.manyang

 

 

Contact Jacob for comments or questions at manyangjacob@gmail.com and

www.savesouthsudaneseorphansandwidows.org

https://www.facebook.com/Save-South-Sudan-Orphans-and-Widows-1428733727349386/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Bishop: Christmas 2016

Bishop J. Scott Barker

Bishop J. Scott Barker

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ –

 

We have come to the season of the year when we celebrate the birth of a baby who not only changed the course of recorded history, but whose life, to this very day, has the most profound imaginable impact on the course of human events.

Christ’s birth confounded the expectations of people of faith and provoked those who possessed great wealth and power from the very beginning.  So much of what we now take for granted about God – from God’s presence in the poor and the outcast … to God’s willingness to become vulnerable even unto death … to the incalculable power of human love – was all first and fully manifest in that Bethlehem barn two thousand years ago.  The birth of Jesus changes everything.

In this moment, it is increasingly clear to me that most of the challenges over which we wring our hands and lose sleep at night – from dwindling church attendance to the rise of a national political conversation driven by hubris and fear – invite nothing less from disciples of Christ than the continued, determined and joyful proclamation of the news the angels shared in this season all those many, many years ago.  The Christ is born.  Fear not.  God is with us.

This news, for those who receive it and believe it, is as astonishing, and life altering as it ever was.  If we live in its light, deeply embracing it as true and let that reality be the verity that guides us as we seek to live authentic human lives every day, our lives will be changed.  And our churches will be changed.  And the world itself – from the Midwestern plains that we know and love to those territories on the other side of the globe that are the farthest reaches from this place – all will be changed.

That change can begin right here and right now.  We have news to share my brothers and sisters.  Good news for all to hear: Jesus Christ is born!

 

In Love & Faith –

+ Bishop Barker