Monday, March 25, 2019

On repentance, feeling like manure, and the gift of today: Sermon for 3rd Sunday in Lent 2019

Sermon for 3rd Sunday in Lent

24 March 2019

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem

The Rev. Carrie Ballenger

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

It was just over a week ago that a white supremacist murdered fifty people during Jummah prayers in two New Zealand mosques. As an American, I must say that when I heard the news, I thought this tragic event felt all too familiar. We have seen such horrors committed again, and again, and again in my home country—in places of worship, in movie theaters, in schools, at concerts. But again, and again, and again, we’ve seen nothing change, either regarding our gun laws or my country’s addiction to white supremacy and xenophobia.

But something different happened in New Zealand this week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern swiftly denounced the attack and flatly refuses to even say the name of the murderer. Just hours after the incident she announced that gun laws in New Zealand would change—and less than a week later, they did. All types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles are banned, effective now. “Our history has changed forever”, she said “And now our laws will, too.”

Now is the time, the nation of New Zealand has said.
Not after the next mass shooting.
Not after the next election.
Not tomorrow.
Now is the time to make a change, now is the time to turn in our guns, now is the time to turn away from white supremacy.

Now is the time for repentance.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, we hear reports about two ancient tragic events. First, people came to tell Jesus about some Galileans killed by Pilate. “Their blood was mixed with their sacrifices” we can imagine them saying, almost in a whisper.

It’s not clear why the crowd wanted to tell Jesus this, but it seems they were probably looking for answers. Why did the Galileans suffer like that? Were they sinners? Had they done something wrong? Who was to blame? 

As usual when humans ask such things, one can hear the more important question that lies just underneath: “And how can I make sure such a thing never happens to me?”

But Jesus didn’t give the crowd a sermon on the sins of the Galileans or helpful tips for avoiding suffering. Instead, he responded this way:

“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

It might seem odd that Jesus would respond to folks worried about one tragedy by bringing up another one. What does a tower accidentally falling on eighteen Jerusalemites have to do with Pilate murdering some Galileans?

But this is exactly the point.

Bad things don’t happen to good people, or to bad people—bad things happen.
Suffering is suffering. Sin is sin. All have fallen short, which means all are in need of an equal amount of mercy and forgiveness.
And death comes to all of us, equally, one day.

“So quit pointing fingers at their supposed sins” Jesus seems to be saying “and worry about your own. This isn’t about them. It’s about you. It’s about what you’re going to do now.”

There’s an urgency in Jesus’ voice, isn’t there? Jesus seems frustrated that even after all his teaching, and healing, and miracles, people are still more worried about the sins of others than with their own lives and actions. But not much has changed, has it? 

When terrible things happen, we love to somehow justify things. We love to point fingers. We love to place blame for suffering. If a tower in Jerusalem fell today, half the city would blame the Occupation, and the other half would blame the Palestinians, and American Christians would shrug and say “Well, you know towers are going to keep falling in the Middle East until Jesus comes back…”

And still, I believe Jesus would say to us the same thing: It’s right and good to be concerned about the suffering of others, but don’t worry about what they did or didn’t do to deserve it. What are you going to do now? Now is the time for you to make a change. Now is the time for you to turn toward love, toward justice, toward the cross.

Now is always the time for repentance and turning toward God—not only in the wake of tragic events—for our own sake, for the sake of others, and for the sake of the Gospel of Love.

As our brother Martin Luther once wrote: “How soon not now becomes never.”

Dear siblings in Christ, this is a tough word—in Jesus’ time, and now! I can say that preachers like to talk about repentance about as much as you like to hear about it (which is not a lot.)

But thanks be to God, after driving home our common need for repentance—not tomorrow, but now, for we never know what tomorrow will bring—Jesus tells the people a parable:

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Now whenever I’m reading parables, I find it helpful to ask, “where do I find myself in this story?”

I suppose I might be the fig tree, which isn’t bearing fruit but is taking up space where other, better producing plants might grow. This is most certainly true!

But I’m also often the landowner, eagerly pointing my finger (and swinging my axe) at those around me who I think are not bearing fruit (or who are growing fruit I don’t care for.)

It’s also entirely possible I’m the manure in this story, as there are days when I just really stink. Amen!

Whoever I am in this parable—wherever the hearer is supposed to find herself—it seems clear to me that we can see Christ in the gardener. 

When the gardener replies to the landowner,

 ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year…” I hear Jesus offering a word of grace to the crowd who has just heard the message “Unless you repent, you will die.”

I hear Jesus saying:

“Yes, now is the time to repent. Now is the time to make a change. Now is always the time to bear fruit!

And also…be not afraid.

Be not afraid, because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Be not afraid, for I am with you, even in the mess.
Be not afraid, for although you may feel useless or barren,
Though you may worry there’s no way to turn things around now,
Though others may be saying it’s too late—
Too late for you,
Too late for the world,
Too late for peace based on justice in Israel and Palestine,
Too late for new gun laws,
Too late to stop the march towards war,
Too late for change,
Too late for repentance,
Too late to bear fruit…

Listen, Jesus says:
I’ve got a shovel,
And some manure,
And I’m not giving up on you.

Jesus, our gentle gardener, not only graciously gives barren trees more time,
And sinners second chances,
He gives his own life for this broken world.

While we so often hesitate to repent, to change, to turn toward life and love,
Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem, and towards the cross, that we may all know eternal life with him.

A little over a year ago, I moved to a new house here in Jerusalem. To tell you the truth, I was very grumpy about moving. I had lived in my former apartment for 3.5 years and would have preferred to have stayed there. To make things worse, I needed to move in December, which is truly a terrible time for a pastor to move house!

The packing day took much longer than planned, and although I didn’t have to lift any boxes myself (thanks be to God) I was still exhausted by the time the last box was placed on the truck. I decided to do one last pass through the apartment to be sure nothing was left behind.

But just as I was preparing to lock the door behind me, my mover, Wael, pointed to a large clay pot on the balcony. “Don’t you want to take this?” he asked.

I took a look at the pot with its brown and dried up plant out there in the December cold, its branches twisted tightly around the balcony railings, and said, “Nah. Just leave it. It looks dead—plus it seems pretty attached to this place. I don’t think it would survive the change. Why bother.”

But Wael knelt down and carefully, one by one, unwrapped the crispy brown branches, liberating the plant from its former home. Then he carried the pot down three flights of stairs and placed it in the passenger seat of the moving truck.

Wael put the plant in my new garden, where it sat looking dead all winter long. But slowly slowly, shway shway, I thought I saw it starting to perk up. As spring changed to summer last year, its branches started to wrap themselves around my garden fence. And now, this spring, the plant I had so nearly given up on seems to have made itself at home.

It made the move. It did survive the change…and it just might be ready to bloom.

In fact, maybe today is the day! Maybe even now, as we sit here contemplating the fig tree who was given a second chance to bear fruit, my once-dead plant is releasing its first springtime blossoms.

Dear friends, during this Lenten season we are reminded that all of us, daily, have the need to repent, to turn away from sin and death and turn toward love and life, to become trees bearing good fruit, fruit that will last.

Thanks be to God for Jesus, our gentle gardener, who never gives up on us.
Thanks be to God that Jesus' story, the world's story, our story, does not end on Good Friday.
And thanks be to God for the gift of time,
For the gift of today—a day to repent, a day to make a change, a day to love, a day to live. As the poet Mary Oliver wrote:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"You hate nothing you have made": Sermon for Ash Wednesday 2019

Sermon for Ash Wednesday 2019
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem

The Rev. Carrie Ballenger

Photo credit: Ben Gray/ELCJHL

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Friends, I can confidently say I have never before preached a sermon on the collect, aka the prayer of the day. I can also confidently say that my preaching professors would not approve. But you know, here it is. It turns out the Good News of Jesus is not bound by liturgical rules or traditions, and the Holy Spirit is a notorious troublemaker. Amen!

This Ash Wednesday collect was penned by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in the 1500s and has been included in the Lutheran prayerbook since 1888. It’s been described as “a prayer of rare beauty and balance…a prayer which is one of the gems of collect literature.” It is drawn in part from the antiphon of the Introit of the Mass for Ash Wednesday (Misereris omnium) and from the book of Wisdom 11:24, 23, 26:

“You love all things that exist, and detest none of the things you have made. You overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent, and spare all things, O Lord.”  (Pfatteicher p. 145)

But listen: These footnotes are only my attempt at justification for the fact that these words from Cranmer have simply latched on to me all week:

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made.

You hate nothing you have made.

You hate nothing you have made! 

This is an astounding proclamation in the world today, which seems to delight in dividing us between the loved and the unloved,
between the righteous and unrighteous,
between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

This is an astounding proclamation also in the church today, as we enter the Lenten season and its disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,  which are intended to bring us closer to God, closer to the source of all love and mercy and forgiveness, 
but which we humans all too often receive and undertake with very different purposes.

Lenten disciplines like prayer and giving and changing habits can be excellent ways to clear our heads and our life routines, making space for listening to the voice of God calling us beloved.

But I wonder how often we undertake such disciplines (particularly those around food and drink) as a way of actually affirming our hatred of ourselves and our bodies, and reinforcing what we assume is God’s hatred of us and our bodies.

For example: How many of us have fasted from chocolate or alcohol or coffee, knowing that they truly have become problematic for us spiritually,

But underneath that choice of spiritual discipline is the thought that if I succeed in this for 40 days,

If I do not eat any sugar,
If I do not drink any coffee,
If I do not eat any meat,
If I lose a few kilos,
I might feel closer to God,

But more importantly, I will become more lovable to God.

If I fast, my body will be thinner,
If I fast, I will like my body more,
And God will like my body more, too.

If I fast,
If I give more,
If I smile more,
If I pray more,
If I win at Lent,

Then I will be more lovable.

When I was in Egypt a few weeks ago, I stayed at a retreat center called Anaphora, just about an hour from Cairo. It was a beautiful, holy, ecumenical place, with a very unusual worship space. The simple chapel was built in the round, out of the dust of the earth, and was filled with colorful rag carpets where worshipers could sit and pray on the floor. There were wooden stools, close to the ground, for those who chose to kneel.

Small round windows dotted the walls and let the morning light in.

At the front of the sanctuary were two large icons – one of Jesus and one of Mary—and an oddly-shaped tree stump which had been fashioned into the altar.

And just above the altar was a massive colorful skylight—in the shape of an eye.

I admit, this eye really freaked me out.

To me, it seemed like a reminder of the God I grew up knowing—the God who was always watching, “Sting-style”—every breath I take, every move I make.

Or maybe Santa-style: “He knows when you’ve been naughty, he knows when you’ve been nice." 

I even thought of the “Handmaid's Tale” and the imposed greeting in Gilead. “Under his eye” say the women in the red cloaks.


 I didn’t like it, at all. It was creepy to me. Whose idea was it to put Father God’s all-seeing patriarchal eye above us when we pray? Yuck.

But near the end of our time at Anaphora, one of the religious sisters took us to the chapel to explain the symbolism of the architecture. The eye window, she said, is not intended as a symbol of God spying on us. Rather, it serves as a reminder for us to see ourselves—and others—the way God the Loving Creator sees us.

And how does God see us?

God sees us as God’s children. As beloved. As worthy.
Worthy of rest.
Worthy of respect.
Worthy of dignity.
Worthy of forgiveness.
Worthy of love.

Sitting in the chapel that morning, with the Sister standing under that massive glass eye, I felt a wave of that love, flowing from the altar and from the cross. I remembered that the messages of unworthiness I’ve received haven’t ever come from God, or from Jesus, crucified and risen, but rather from society, and church culture, and all too often from the institutional church.

It’s easy to forget—perhaps especially during Lent—that while we often have to jump through hoops for the neighborhood and the culture and for the institution to love and accept us,
we don’t need to do anything for God to love us.

God loved dust.
God loved dust so much that God took that dust in God’s hands and formed it into you. 

God formed it into me.

For this reason, these 40 days are not about making ourselves better so we will become more lovable to God. That is a futile task, a pointless discipline. This work has already been done! We have already been fashioned and formed and made in God’s image from beloved, holy dust. We are already beautifully and wonderfully made.

Lenten disciplines, then, are instead about clearing away the crap in our lives so we can truly feel and live into God’s embrace of our whole selves—and others.

Lenten disciples are about clearing away the crap so we can truly love every body—even those bodies which seem to exist in opposition to ours.

A few years ago—I think it was during the 2015-2016 so-called “stabbing intifada” – I found myself having truly problematic thoughts towards Israeli soldiers. At one time I counted and estimated that I see 33 soldiers armed with automatic weapons on my daily commute.

33 – ironically the number of years Jesus is said to have lived on this earth.

I found myself each day walking past them and feeling my body tensing up, my breath seizing up, my mind going to negative spaces. I didn’t like the feelings. I didn’t like the soldiers! I certainly didn’t love them. I wanted them simply to disappear.

It was understandable, perhaps, based on what was happening to the Palestinian members of my community due to their skin color and ethnicity only—daily arrests and harassment, fear and persecution.

And yet…I knew it wasn’t right. I could feel that these feelings of distrust were leading me to feelings of hatred. Of prejudice. Of dehumanization.

And it was almost Lent.

And so, that year, instead of giving up coffee or sugar, I took on the discipline of praying for the soldiers each morning when I saw them.

I prayed for them as sons and daughters of women like me.
I prayed for them as 18-20 year old young people, still able to be formed in a different way, as my teenage sons were.

I prayed for them as fellow dust, beloved by God, shaped and formed and fashioned by the culture and society they grew up in, but still of the same dust of creation as I am.

I prayed (and LOOOO it was hard, my friends) until soon it became easier for me to remember that yes:

They are loved by God. And so am I.

The chapel at Anaphora, Egypt

I prayed until I could see them as if through that eye in the ceiling of the retreat center in Egypt: as beloved children, dust of the same dust, children of the same Father, broken as I am broken,
Redeemed as I am redeemed,
Loved as I am loved.

Listen, that was the hardest Lenten discipline I’ve ever undertaken.
It felt terrible. I hated it!

And it was one of the most transformative.

The truth is, the more I allowed dehumanizing, prejudicial thoughts to take root in my head and settle in my heart, the further away I traveled from knowing the love God has for me. The more I allowed myself to consider that these humans were unlovable, un-redeemable, and wrong somehow in their being, the more I could believe that I, too, might be unlovable, unedeemable, and wrong somehow in my own being.

Dear siblings in Christ, hear the Good News:

We are all made from the same dust of creation. And God does not hate dust.

God formed dust into you and me! God breathed life into dust.

God allowed God’s Son to become a creature of dust and breath, sweat and sorrow, so that we would know we are not alone.

Therefore, on this day when we gather to receive crosses of ash and dust on our foreheads, remember that this is not some morbid expression of death and its inevitability.

We are marked today not for death, but for life.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From dust you have been made, and to dust you shall return.”

Yes, you will return to dust, as will every human on this earth—soldiers, settlers, neighbors, friends, pastors, children, lovers, politicians, celebrities, strangers.

But we are marked this day not to remember death. Rather we are marked to remember we are alive.

We are perishable, we have an expiration date,

But today, because Christ is crucified and risen: we are alive.

We are alive and well
We are alive and kicking
We are existing and resisting.
We are alive, and we are loved.

For the almighty and living God hates nothing God has made

The almighty and ever-living God creates in us new and honest hearts, that we may live fully, love fully, and serve our neighbor fully, thereby building up the kingdom of love, grace, justice, reconciliation, and mercy of whom Jesus Christ is the cornerstone.

I’ll end today with a favorite quote from Father Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013), priest and chef and food writer:

 “Trust him. And when you have done that, you are living the life of grace. No matter what happens to you in the course of that trusting - no matter how many waverings you may have, no matter how many suspicions that you have bought a poke with no pig in it, no matter how much heaviness and sadness your lapses, vices, indispositions, and bratty whining may cause you - you believe simply that Somebody Else, by his death and resurrection, has made it all right, and you just say thank you and shut up. The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn't going to flunk you because your faith isn't so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead - and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.”

― Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace

May the peace of God which passes all understanding  keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

"One thing" -- Sermon for Transfiguration of Our Lord 2019

Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Rev. Carrie Ballenger

“One thing”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Icons in progress at Anafora Retreat Center near Cairo

“You can choose one thing.”

This is what my parents told 10 year-old me in the gift shop at Disneyland on our last day of vacation, just as the park was closing. I remember standing in front of a massive display of stuffed animals—Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Bambi—and thinking “How can I ever choose? How can I pick just one thing to represent the whole Magic Kingdom?!” I agonized over the decision far past my family’s patience, until they said with exasperation, “Come on, Carrie, it’s time to go!” In desperation, I quickly grabbed a Mickey Mouse, hoping his iconic red pants and giant black ears would preserve all my memories of our Disney vacation forever.

Two weeks ago, I found myself in a similar situation, except this time it was at a desert retreat center in Egypt, not Disneyland. On the last day, I was standing before a display of icons, debating which one to bring home.

Now listen: I had traveled to Egypt fully intending to bring home an icon. I had money set aside to spend on one. I had even watched the religious sisters of the retreat center writing these icons! And still, I found myself agonizing over the decision. The thing is, I didn’t really want to leave the retreat center. I wasn’t ready to go back to the hustle and bustle of Cairo. I wanted to stay in the peace and quiet of the desert! And I wanted to stay near to Jesus, who had so faithfully walked with me while I was there. Could any of those images—as beautiful as they were—truly capture that experience?

This time, there were no exasperated parents to step in and demand I end the deliberation. I was about to just grab an icon, any one, when I noticed a small rock sitting on the same shelf. It was marked with a tiny Coptic cross, painted in the same style as the icons. I picked it up and noticed it fit just in the palm of my hand. It probably wasn’t intended to be for sale, but I took it to the checkout counter anyway. The cashier just looked at the rock (and me) with amusement and handed it back, a free gift with my other purchases. I stuck it in my pocket, where it remained for the rest of my trip.

Now Peter, James, and John were on a high mountain with Jesus. They were weighed down with sleep, but because they stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men (Moses and Elijah) who stood with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let’s build three little houses, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.

The story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain is both one of the strangest stories in the Gospels and one of the few we hear twice a year! Come August 6, we will hear it again…and I suppose that makes sense, as it was most certainly something to remember.

It’s tough to know what to do with mountaintop religious experiences. How do you commemorate such moments? Do you write a poem—or maybe even a Gospel? Do you compose a piece of music, or create a work of art? You may want a souvenir to take home, a small rock from the mountain where it happened, for example.

Or maybe you would want to build a little house in that exact spot, because it feels so good to be there, where the world (and Jesus) make sense.

When we experience profound or mystical moments, it is certainly tempting to try and hang out there forever. This feeling keeps us coming back to the Holy Land, or visiting a favorite vacation spot, or it makes us try and recreate that perfect dinner party time and again.

But I think this feeling—this wanting-to-stay-on-the-mountaintop feeling—is also the same impulse that causes well-meaning, Christian people, to try and preserve the church the way we remember it, the way it was when we were young, the way it was when the world (and Jesus) made sense.

The problem is, that feeling of wanting to protect and preserve mountaintop experiences means we spend our precious time building little boxes and attempting to keep Jesus in there—except Jesus didn’t ask us to build him a shrine on the mountain.

But he does ask us to follow him.

I’m sure it was a day for Jesus to remember, too, on that mountain. But instead of lingering there, Jesus took Peter and the other disciples with him off the mountain as soon as possible.

He took them down the mountain, where he got busy proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor—starting with the healing of one boy possessed by a spirit.

Jesus took the disciples down the mountain and into the streets, where he asked them to join in this work of life transformation and transfiguration, and where he continued to prepare them for the next stage of their journey, which was to be Jerusalem, and the cross.

Dear siblings in Christ, there’s nothing wrong with mystical mountaintop experiences – in fact, on Wednesday evenings during this Lenten season we’re going to spend some time with a few of the most famous Christian mystics: Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Antony of Egypt.

However, mountaintops are not where disciples of Jesus are called to stay.
Mountaintops are not where we even come to know Jesus in the deepest way!

“This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to him!” says the voice from the cloud.

But it turns out that the glory of God is made manifest not only through mysterious clouds and mystical voices from heaven,

But even more so when a boy possessed by a spirit is restored to wholeness and returned to his family,
and when the lost and excluded are restored to community,
and when the oppressed and occupied are liberated,
and when our broken hearts are made whole once again,
and when our own lives are transformed and transfigured.

Image of Jesus at Linkoping Cathedral, Sweden

The glory of God is not housed on any high mountain,
Or in any church building,
Nor can it be contained or controlled by any church institution 

Because through Jesus God’s glory is on the loose in the world, active in every interaction Jesus has with the broken, the sinful, the grieving, and the oppressed. Amen!

“OK, you can take one thing” I imagine Jesus saying to the disciples, after the cloud dissipated and the magic kingdom was fading into the distance.

“We’re not staying here on this mountain, and we’re not building any houses, but you can take one thing with you.”

You can’t very well take a cloud down the mountain in your pocket, can you?

But the one thing the disciples could take with them from their mountaintop experience was a profound experience of who Jesus is…not only a teacher, not only a prophet, but God’s Son, the Chosen one, the one the world had been waiting for.

This is the value of any mystical experience, after all—and of any Holy Land pilgrimage, for that matter—in that it gives us a deeper knowledge of who Jesus is.

Thanks be to God that on the mountain, in the desert, in the bread and the wine, and especially on the cross,
Jesus is again and again revealed to us as love, perfect love.

Friends, we can’t stay on the mountain. Not many of you can stay here in Jerusalem! And I promise, you won’t be able to find the perfect souvenir on the last day.
But we can take Jesus’ radical, self-giving love with us wherever we go--
We can take it to the streets.
We can take it to the hospital.
We can take it to the halls of power
We can take it into our darkest hours.
We can take this love all the way to the cross with him—for there we find the deepest understanding of who Jesus is.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

"Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds