Saturday, December 13, 2014

Third Advent, Children's Pageant of Christmas

Third Advent is Pageant Sunday around St. Andrew's, and the kids "preach."

If I were preaching I think I'd choose for a text a verse from Psalm 126: Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Advent

Isaiah 40

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  

(I would sing more of Handel’s wonderful tenor line here, but I don’t want to spoil it for you!)  Speak ye tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.

The Sunday schedule of readings for Advent and then on into Christmas is full and almost overflowing with the poetry of the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which is a wonderful gift for us in the coming weeks.  And building from these beautiful turning-point verses from Chapter 40.  

We might say that it is something like the background music for the season, touching us and shaping our impressions and perceptions and experience of the solemn and powerful message we meet here in Advent and Christmas again and again.   

Ancient Holy Jerusalem in ruins.  A remnant and broken people scattered in exile.  In the hour of deepest defeat, darkness, despair, when all hope seems to have melted away, and beyond all deserving, God acts, redeems, forgives, restores, renews.   Comfort.

That as we lean forward with longing and anticipation as the windows in the Advent calendar chart the way  in the journey to Bethlehem and the Manger, so we lean forward as well here and now in the midst of our day to day lives to the completion of his story and to what it will mean for us to be lifted up into his final victory.  Advent.   Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness; and put upon us the armor of light, now in time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.

A season all about hope.  Not as a hypothesis, a theoretical proposition, but suddenly to appear as a concrete effective reality in the midst of our lives.  Dayspring from on high.  The shimmering of a perfect dawn on the horizon of the world’s dark night.  Even when we are surrounded and even as we are  infected by such profound brokenness.  Personal loss.  Regret.  Mistakes.  Hurtful and self-centered words and actions.  Turned in on ourselves, is the classic description of this human condition.  Incurvatus in se.  Turning away from God and from one another.  The inclination of sin.  Social dislocation, all of humanity.  Even when the whole wide world we live in from the Middle East to East Asia to Missouri and New York and to our neighborhood and city.
The opening of Isaiah’s  40th chapter, and God the Holy Spirit speaks though the Prophet:  Comfort my people.  And then this wonderful phrase. An imperative, a command.    Daber al-leb.  The Hebrew, translated in King James’s English as “speak ye tenderly,” but that’s only part of it.  It’s 30 years since my last Hebrew class, but always fun and meaningful to turn back to the first language of the text.  More literally, “Comfort my people, speak to the heart of Jerusalem.”   Daber al-leb.

And a reminder that in Hebrew poetic imagery the heart is not simply as it mostly is in English about emotions.  Feelings.  We say “mind and heart” to talk about two different kinds of perception, but that wasn’t a division in the Hebrew way of thought.  The heart is also where all cognition and reason and feeling are said to reside. One place rather than two.  Some academic translators that I’ve read concerning this passage from Isaiah prefer something more like, “Comfort my people, persuade them completely.”    What we mean when we talk about “winning hearts and minds.”   The Prophet’s call not simply to be soft and affectionate, but a comforting word that is most of all,  thorough and transformative--that that communicates entirely, from the whole person, to the whole person,  to the whole people, God’s chosen, that overcomes every reservation and doubt, every hesitation and objection,  every hidden point of resistance--that searches out and cleanses and refreshes every dark corner of life.  Speak to them so that the message fills every part of them.

Speak in this full way to Israel.  Let her know through and through that her warfare is over, the crushing and shattering consequences of her unfaithfulness and sin, now come to an end.  That a new day is dawning.  An Advent, Easter hymn:  The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won.

A complete conversion of life.  Scattered across the lands of exile, in ghettos and refugee camps from Iran and Iraq to Egypt and Yemen, the surviving remnant to stand and sing with full voice, I once was lost, but now am found . . . .  A long, long time before John Newton would compose the text of that hymn.  But all there in Isaiah 40: Amazing Grace. 

And at the heart of this season, this New Year:   What are we looking for?  What’s on our Christmas list?  What to add to our New Year Resolutions this year?  The hopes and fears of all the years.  What you and I are bringing to the table this morning, this season.  Just to pause over that. Really and truly, in the deepest secret places of our “minds and hearts.” 

The penetrating word, to enter us and to fill us completely.  Advent not a few weeks of superficial holiday cheer, but an invitation to a thoroughgoing conversion, a new life.  A fresh start.  To know the gracious and generous gift of his forgiveness, his love.  Beyond our deserving.  To experience a renewal.  To become a new people, and each of us a new person.  Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.

We see him coming in his manger bed, the Child of Bethlehem.   We watch for him in the East, our triumphant King returning in his glorious majesty.   And the reading somehow flows off the page and into our lives.  A word for us.   Comfort ye my people.

 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Sunday

Our sermon at St. Andrew's on Advent Sunday, November 30, was offered by our Parish Deacon, the Ven. Jean D. Chess.

Advent 1 Year B
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

November 30, 2014

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen

I love chances to make a fresh start.  As a student and as a teacher - I always looked forward to the start of the new school term.  I love the process of starting a new job or a new project or a new spiritual discipline.  I'm filled with hope that this time I can really get everything in order.  I'll finish my daily to-do list.  I'll eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day... I'll keep up with all those emails.... I'll see and respect the image of God in everyone I encounter.

I especially love Advent - the start of a new church year, a liturgical season filled with beautiful, peaceful, and hopeful images of light emerging in the darkness culminating with the very tender, and non-threatening presence of the baby Jesus.  A chance to try - for only 4 weeks - some new spiritual discipline of keeping a better watch out for Jesus at work in my life and in the wider world.
So when I was asked to preach this first Sunday of Advent - I thought great, no stress, I know what to say about Advent.  Upon my first read through of the lessons several weeks ago, I was caught by the familiar phrase - keep alert - and I even had an idea about how to work learning to use my GPS into this sermon..
But then, I spent time dwelling more deeply in our readings for today.  I was drawn to the cries of lament from God's people in Exile as captured in the book of Isaiah - God's people crying out and saying - God, I need you, where are you, why have you left us, why don't you answer me.... and I was especially drawn to the very end of Isaiah 64 which was not included in our lectionary reading. 
(From the New International Version translation..)

"Oh, look on us, we pray - for we are all your people....
Your sacred cities have become a wasteland; even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation.  Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins.  After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back?  Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?"

There is great comfort in the image of the light of Christ emerging in the darkness - and we know that we, as Christians, walk always as children of the Light....but to focus only on the light can diminish the reality of our very human experience of darkness. 
What have you treasured that now lies in ruins going into this season of Advent?  Have you lost the presence of a beloved companion in this earthly life?  Are you grieving the loss of physical or mental health of yourself of someone you love? Are you full of regret about the past - or fearful about the future? 

Acknowledging the reality of darkness invites us into those places where we are less than perfect, where we are broken, where we are most human, and where we most need - and often find - God.

Canadian singer-songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen puts it this way in his song,  Anthem - "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"

Listen to the whole refrain...
"Ring the bells you still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".

Where are the cracks, the broken places, in our lives as individuals and in our collective lives as communities of human beings where we long for the light to get in?

Where might we be so focused on presenting a 'perfect' offering that we're holding back from taking any step at all?   

Open the newspaper, turn on the TV, browse to, walk down the street - what makes you want to shout out loud to God and beg "Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence...." 
From where do you long most deeply for the light of God this Advent?  From where do you cry - O come, O come Emmanuel?


Monday, December 1, 2014

St. Andrew the Apostle

While the "St. Andrew's, Highland Park" congregational observance of our patronal festival is customarily scheduled for the Sunday before the Thanksgiving Holiday, Andrew's "Day" on the calendar is November 30--transferred to December 1 in years when that day falls on a Sunday (as it does in 2014).

Patron of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh

(Greek: Ανδρέας, Andreas), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" (from Greek : ανδρεία, manhood, or valour), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the second or third century B.C. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him.

The Bible records that St Andrew was a son of Jonah, or John, (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42). He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that He will make them "fishers of men" (Greek: ἁλιείς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthropon). At the beginning of Jesus' public life they occupied the same house at Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29).

From the Gospel of John we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother(John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

Click here to read more.

ALMIGHTY God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When the Apostles went forth to preach to the Nations, Andrew seems to have taken an important part, but unfortunately we have no certainty as to the extent or place of his labours. Eusebius (Church History III.1), relying, apparently, upon Origen, assigns Scythia as his mission field: Andras de [eilechenten Skythian; while St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 33) mentions Epirus; St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcell.) Achaia; and Theodoret (on Ps. cxvi) Hellas. Probably these various accounts are correct, for Nicephorus (H.E. II:39), relying upon early writers, states that Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia. It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast.

El Greco, St. Andrew, 1606

St. Andrew's relics were translated from Patrae to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. St. Andrew is honoured as their chief patron by Russia and Scotland.

Click here to read it all in The Catholic Encyclopedia

Friday, November 28, 2014

For Advent and Christmastide, 2014

One of my favorites, by Jude Simpson:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Eve of Thanksgiving Day, 2014

Good evening to all, as we are here on this Eve of Thanksgiving Day and gathering not only for ourselves in this moment but on behalf of all our wider parish family first of all—those travelling in the holiday weekend, especially in the context of some less-than-friendly weather, and all those coming together with family and friends—and lifting up in prayer our Church and the larger Christian family, our neighborhood and this wider community and our nation and all the wide world. The whole of creation, as fall slides toward winter, resting in the arms of our Creator and Redeemer.

Interesting that in the liturgical directions for Thanksgiving Day the Proper Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the sentence at the beginning of the prayer that indicates the theme or season, the Proper Eucharistic Preface is the one prescribed for Trinity Sunday. “For with your co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit, you are one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being; and we celebrate the one and equal glory of you, O Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”   The message for us seems to be the one so often repeated, I believe first used generally in the Twelve Step movement:  Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.  The old song: “He’s got the whole world in his hand.”  We get caught up in the daily ups and downs of life, but to step back, to see ourselves and our world in the big picture.

All these competing strands of our life coming together in this holiday. Food, football, family. More food. And then apparently for many there will be a just few hours of sleep, and then long drives up to Grove City for the 3 a.m. outlet store openings.  Some places opening even earlier, in the middle of Thursday afternoon.  The first wave in the coming storm of hyper-consumerism, I guess, even in this still somewhat  fragile economy. All that, and as we take care of our last minute holiday preparations this evening and tomorrow morning, this word from Jesus in our gospel reading.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

It happens that this Thanksgiving service is the last service at St. Andrew’s in this Church Year, as we will be all ready to go for the new year and Advent Sunday this coming Sunday morning. And the message for us is about how we would see our priorities, our concerns—how we would organize ourselves day by day in the New Year ahead.

We hear this evening and would be called to represent with our lives something countercultural. Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  . .  .  Indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

A moment of Thanksgiving not simply for the blessings that we have received, but even more for the one who is all blessing, from before time and forever.   And what does that mean? What does it look like? His kingdom?  His righteousness.  We sort that out along the way, of course. No easy answers. And understanding that “our” kingdom and “our” righteousness may be what we need to set aside in some sense, to come into relationship with him.  In the light of his resurrection, conforming our lives to the cruciform shape of his. Seeking not to find our own way, but to follow in his footsteps. 

Paul has this wonderful moment in the  passage from First Timothy appointed for this evening. A clue for us, perhaps.  “That we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” 

I’m not sure we’ve always—or even ever—done a good job of this.  Turmoil and distress from one end of the world to the other.  Ferguson, Missouri.  The terrorism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.  Failures of trust, betrayal, loss of hope.  Arguments, mean-spiritedness, mutual disregard, self-centeredness, even violence, so much a part of our Christian past and our Christian present. Even in the life of the church. 

No question about it. But we would at the end of this year just pause. In thanksgiving at Thanksgiving.  That this might be our prayer.  To lift up in the feast of this world that it might be for us a pathway forward, from the food of this life to  the food that endures for eternal life. To make his way our way.  Advent Sunday just ahead, and as we get up from the table this week, to say in our hearts and to be ready for this reality:  The Lord is near.

Bishop McConnell at Evensong, November 16

Peace is Our Profession: A Sermon for the Mission of the Church

Preached by the Right Reverend Dorsey McConnell
The Bishop of Pittsburgh
In Saint Andrews Church, Highland Park
At Evensong
November 16, 2014

At that time you were separated from Christ having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
                                    —Ephesians 2: 12-14,19

Then Jesus appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them,… ‘Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house!  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. If not, it will return to you.

                                    —Luke 10:1-2, 5-6

As many of you know, I am a son of the military, the Air Force, to be exact.  I was born during the Cold War on a B-52 base in the middle of the Great Plains, and one of my earliest memories is of lying in my crib listening to those huge aircraft in a scramble drill.  Their flightpath was practically over our house and as they roared into the air in quick succession, I watched the windows of my bedroom tremble in their frames.  I wasnt afraid. It was a comforting sound, really, the way some children might think of the tea kettle boiling in the kitchen.  My mother had told me that those planes were protecting us, and I believed her.  One of the first sentences I learned to read, emblazoned in a painted banner on the side of every bomber, under a mailed fist that clutched both a lightning bolt and an olive branch, was the motto of the Strategic Air Command: Peace is our profession

It took me years to grasp both the true sense and the inherent contradiction of those words.  On the one hand, it was frankly absurd: how can you think of a flying machine carrying several megatons of mass destruction as an instrument of peace? I dont think that is what the author of the prayer of Saint Francis has in mind when he asks God to make us instruments of his peace.  On the other hand, it made sense, when I first dove into Saint Augustines great work The City of God.  Augustine says that all human activity, every effort of human society, even war, is in pursuit of peace.  Of course, we never get there, because the peace we are in fact yearning for is far greater than the cessation of earthly conflict, greater than the fragile equilibrium that can be established by human treaties or human concord.  What we are yearning for is the peace of God, and that can only come from God Himself.  But what is this peace of God?

The author of Ephesians is pretty clear that this peace of Godis a complete reversal of our natural state. He points out with stunning force that by birth and nature we are separated from Christ, having no hope and without God in the world.”  That would cause most people on the street to raise their eyebrows a bit dont you think? When I first heard it, as a young man considering Christ, I certainly thought it went too far.  I mean, I had my flaws, but surely I was still basically a good person, wasnt I?  Yet, the more I showed up in church, the more I started realizing how untrue this assumption was.  Something began happening to me. My sin became more visible to me.  Habits that I had indulged in without a moments thought now began to give me pause; my own malice and anger, my utter self-centeredness, my pride and gossip, actually began to grieve me a little. I began to see the enormous distance between the person I was and the person I might become, that God wanted me to become.  I began to intuit that the peace I had always wanted lay in my giving up my own will to His will, accepting His judgment of my sin, and receiving His mercy by acknowledging His rule over me; I came dangerously close to realizing that this alone would lead me toward becoming the person I inwardly yearned to be. 

And yet, simultaneously, far from wholeheartedly wanting to become that fulfilled, benign, and loving creature filled with the peace of God, I discovered there were huge parts of me that wanted to destroy that vision utterly, to drown it out, to get rid of the God who offered it, and enthrone themselves in His place. And that scared me.  It didnt scare me enough to make me a Christian, but it did get my attention, for a while; so I did what any normal person would doI stopped turning to Him, stopped going to church, stopped reading Christian books. Instead I filled my life with adventure and kept on the move.  I moved every three to six months for two years across three continents and (with a few nearly catastrophic exceptions) I avoided churches like the plague.  I had made a fortress of my egotism and for a time I thought I was safe.

What I had not counted on is that this God of peace chases us, through his human instruments.  Then Jesus appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come.”   If you read the passage in Luke carefully, you will see how clever a strategy it is, because if those disciples take what Jesus is saying seriously, if they actually do what He says they should do, theyre going to wind up looking an awful lot like the one who sent them: they will be lambs in the midst of wolves, as He the Lamb of God is content to be; they will trust the Father for their provision, not despising any house or table, just as He does, who eats with anyone who asks, from Pharisees to prostitutes; strangely, as they do this, they will begin to resemble the one who sent them, and they will come with a blessing of peace, from the one who is peace. And if a child of peace is there, that peace will find its resting place, the way an arrow finds its mark, the way Jesus finds those to whom he comes and says, Follow me.”  Do you see how brilliant this is?  His disciples, as bearers of His peace, in spite of all their flaws, will in the main mysteriously show forth the character of their Master so that others will be drawn not to them but to Him. 

This peace they are carrying with them is nothing less than this complete reconciliation between human beings and God won through the blood of Christ; it is the peace that Ephesians is talking about, a reconciliation that spills over into human relationships, our relationships, changing them forever; it may not turn our enemies into friendsthats their choicebut it does turn them into the beloved, and it does mean that our whole life is now about putting others at the center of our world, not ourselves, because that is where Christ iswith them, weeping with them, laughing with them, begging to wash their feet.  And a child of peace, I think, is someone who, in spite of all reason, in spite of all the parts of herself screaming, Run away! Run away!, in spite of his limitless capacity for relapse which he will continue to provea child of peace is someone who, for reasons know only to God, yearns for that peace; that yearning is God-given, born of grace, and, I believe, in the end irresistible.   So even someone who doesnt look like a child of peace at allwho is restless, or contrarian, even vengeful and violentmay indeed be one, having underneath all their conflicts the deep-seated unconscious knowledge that in the end all that will matter is their repentance, that they will only come to the peace they yearn for by giving up and saying Yes to the God who alone is peace. 

This yearning for peace is so deeply woven into the mystery of human identity as to be indelible; it is like an innate characteristic in someone, the way we say a person has her fathers eyes or his mothers laugh. It emanates from some strange ember burning deep within the ashes of the human soul, but it needs something to call it into life, to set it on fire.  That happens by nothing other than the word of the one who is our peace, the word of Jesus, through His willing disciples, who are on assignment to chase down the reluctant children of peace and throw their entire lives into merciful chaos just by offering the Peace of Christ.

Sounds like fun, doesnt it?  Apparently it is!  Jesus had a great time doing itconsider what he does with Simon Peter for example: taking a hardened and skeptical fisherman, and in a matter of hours swamping his boat, dragging his partners into the mess, making him beg to be left alone, and then extending the completely nonsensical offer that Simon might consider fishing for men, because he doesnt seem to be doing very well with tilapia: seems like a lot to go through for one disciple, but some cases are tougher than others.  Some need a quieter approach, as with Levi the tax collector, the Lord just showing up where he works and looking at him with all the force of an irresistible love, until he says Uncle.  Or coming to the grief-stricken Mary Magdalene on a peculiar Sunday morning and showing her that there is a love stronger than death. To each of these, in a way appropriate to each, He says, Peace be with you; stop struggling, come to me and you will find rest for your souls, and once they have done that, after his resurrection, He gives to them essentially the same commission as He gave the seventy:  He says, now take the word of this peace into the worldseek out my reluctant children, that they may come into their inheritance, the peace prepared for them from the foundation of the world.  And, as unlikely candidates for the job as they are, nonetheless that is exactly what they doPeter and James and John and Andrew and Mary and Martha and Mary Magdalene and the rest, children of peace bringing the word of peace to others who are called to be such children, but do not yet know it.  

That is certainly what happened to me. Try as I might to avoid them, I kept running into Christians.  Some of them were scary, and some of them were boring, and some of them were clearly insane, but some of them had a quality that was so compelling I can barely describe it. If I had to put it into a few words I would say they had their Fathers eyes. They looked at me with understanding and compassion; they showed me in the way they talked and listened, the way they acted and prayed not out of a small part of themselves, but out of their whole being, and they helped me see that the meaning of my life didnt lie in my resolving my frustrations with my job or my girlfriend or in overcoming the various other obstacles of ordinary existence; rather it lay in that bright ember burning at the core of my soul, which they knew because it was theirs as wellthis yearning for mercy, for peace, that had been answered by Jesus, who has made peace by the blood of his Cross.  When they spoke of it, they seemed a bit sad that such a cost should be necessary, and a bit wise as if they knew this need were everywhere, and overall joyful because they knew they were finally home, no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, members of the household of God; and soon I wanted to live where they lived, so I said Yes, and found the same mercy creeping into every part of who I was.  Its been nearly forty years, now since that moment; Im not sure Ive made all that much progress as a child of peace, but as I frequently tell my wife to console her for choosing me, just think of what Id be like without Him! 

The terrors of this world are always around us; our demons bite and maim and leave countless lives wounded and neglected by the side of the road.  We stare helplessly at the results of the wrongs we have done, which we would not do, and at the good we might have done which we never did. But none of this is too much for God.  He knows all our  wreckage, and He has chosen us anyway.  So if youre here praying tonight, you can assume you are among those he now sends out to preach peace to his reluctant children, to those who are far off and to those who are near.  In a few moments, the Cross will lead us out; as it does see if you can read the motto written through it in all but words: Peace is our profession.  And if as you lie in bed tonight you doubt you could be the one He has chosen and sent, then end the day with this prayer or something like it: have mercy on me Lord Jesus, have mercy; by the power of your Cross, join me to the household of your saints; let others see in me your Fathers eyes, and help me help them receive the blessing of your peace.  I assure you: if the chorus of the angels were audible after such a prayer, you would hear the riot of their glory as they passed over you in quick succession, and the windows of your bedroom would tremble in their frames.