“Dance” Matthew 28:16-20

This is Holy Trinity Sunday.  Isn’t that exciting?   It’s one of those opportunities that preachers tend to dread really.

First of all, Holy Trinity is a doctrine or church teaching and if there was one thing drilled into us in seminary it was “never preach on doctrine!”  Why?   Well,  because,

  1. It’s boring.
  2. The act of preaching is about speaking a word that transforms, and while various doctrines have gotten a lot of people killed over the centuries as they have been fought over and debated, few church teachings have really been transformative.

Living into a doctrine’s implications can be life changing, but the doctrine itself is not really what changes things.

So, for instance, “Justification by grace through faith” is the Reformation “rally cry” doctrine, but it’s all just words.   It’s the living into what those words mean, the act of choosing to forgive.  The action of accepting others with their flaws, the stepping out to do the Christ-like thing because you realize that you are justified for Jesus’ sake –discovering that God loves and accepts you no matter what — that is what brings about transformation in people, not the proper arrangement words.

It’s like the difference between talking to your spouse about the importance of love in a relationship (which is doctrine, teaching, explanation, and may all be true) and instead saying as you gaze deeply into that other person’s eyes, “I love you.”   Which will transform the moment?     And,

  1. Don’t preach doctrine because…well, did I mention? — It’s boring!

Secondly, preaching on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is just not a fruitful effort because all attempts to explain it lead you down a pathway of heresy.  You can’t really explain the unexplainable.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not something that was just “decided upon” at some church council or meeting, it’s more of a description of how God has expressed God’s own self, — how God has revealed God’s self to humanity in the perichoresis of Father, Son and Spirit.

See, even saying that gets boring, doesn’t it?

So then, if I can’t preach on the doctrine itself, or wax eloquently on how to explain it, what am I to do?

I decided to just show you this instead. jr. high danceThis has everything in it to help you understand the Holy Trinity and what it means for you.  Can you figure it out?

Okay, let me help you out just a little bit.   It has nothing to do with those three boys there on the right.  I’ll bet that’s where you eye went right away.  ‘Hey, there are three dudes, they must stand for Father, Son and Spirit.


In fact, just because there are three of them doesn’t mean anything at all. In fact, they are sort of the antithesis of that Perichoresis thing I mentioned a bit ago.

You know, that boring word you don’t understand and have never probably heard of before.  “Perichoresis”

Holy Trinity really has more to do with the girls pictured on the left up there, particularly the one in the black dress with the bow.  What is she doing?

That right, she looks like she’s dancing, or about to, if she can just find a partner… I wonder where one might be?

I really want to thank the journalism students from Italy, Texas, who posted this picture on the internet from the ubiquitously awkward experience that we have all had at one point in time, which is the Jr. High School dance.

You remember this scene perhaps from your own dark recesses of your mind.  Quite often the Jr. High dance left deep psychological scars that we processed for decades after the event, alternatively kicking ourselves for what we did, and what we didn’t do.

You entered the decorated gym, and there they were.

All the boys on one side of the gym, trying their best to look cool while simultaneously also looking disinterested –but in reality trying to nonchalantly check out the girls, but not look too obvious, or too interested, either to each other or, God forbid, make eye contact with a girl across the gym.

In the meantime, on the opposite side of the gymnasium, the girls were sporting various dresses that accentuated parts of the anatomy that were just beginning to become more interesting to young people of this age group.

In other words, people who previously had been just another playmate or classmate were now beginning to take on different characteristics under the influence of crepe paper and low lighting.

As the music would start, (at least way back in the dark ages when I was in Jr. High,) the guys engaged in a form of merging their molecular structure with the concrete block wall.

Meanwhile, across the gym floor the girls would begin to make fluid motions, creeping out onto the floor little by little to move and gyrate to the music, at first with one another, all in hopes that perhaps one of the brave souls who had caught their eye might disengage from their “wall meld” and timidly, tepidly attempt perhaps, to dance….

I just love the “deer in the headlights” expression of that young man with the Coke bottle.   “Was she just looking at me??????”

Ah, the Jr. High Dance, the beginning of things yet to come where the bewildered and the beguiled begin to learn how to take that first small step and start dancing into a wider world.

What does this have to do with the Holy Trinity?

I think we live this Jr. High Dance over and over again in our relationship to God.

God wants us to join in the dance of life.  “Perichoresis” means “rotation, to dance.”   It’s what we watch God do with God’s own self, as God finds ways to weave in and out of people’s lives, entering and moving, speaking….coming as Word, as Spirit, as incarnate Son who strikes up conversations with women at wells and men hiding in trees.

We have a God who appears to love to dance, to move lightly in this world and among God’s people.

But we are more like Jr. High Kids….. “deer in the headlight looks” come over us when the invitation and opportunity to join with God in the dance of life.

Isn’t that what you feel, sense in the Gospel lesson for today.   Here is Jesus’ great command, the great invitation to the Disciples.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,….”  Jesus says.

Jesus says “Go…” and we try to meld into the concrete wall, or sit, hoping he won’t see us, won’t make eye contact with us.  “Who me?  Go?   I like it here.”

Jesus says “Make disciples…” and we shuffle around, mostly saying things like “well, I really don’t know how to do that!”  — much the same way Jr. high boys will argue they don’t know how to dance.

Jesus says “teach”…and we respond we’re not sure what to teach, or how.  We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, get this wrong, teach them the wrong thing.   “If only I knew my bible better, or my catechism better, maybe I should take a few classes myself first before I try to teach anyone else.”

You get the picture here.

We have a God who wants to dance, but we quite often come off as awkward, unsure, lacking confidence, …   much like kids at a Jr. High dance. – at least when it comes to living out our faith.

That’s really the issue, isn’t it?

Our lack of confidence is what gets in the way.

It makes us begin to doubt, to wonder, would anyone really want to be seen with us, let alone God?

I want to believe that I can get in step with God’s plan for my life.

I want to trust that I can step out on the floor, and be accepted, and seen as someone with gifts, talents, abilities.. but I’m afraid, and awkward, and so I hang back.

I’ll bet you do too.

Which is why it’s so important that we hear the closing promise that is made by Jesus, because it is all about how you join in the dance!

“And remember I am with you always to the close of the age.”

What gives you confidence when you’re awkward?   Isn’t it a partner who believes in you?   One who sticks with you no matter what?   That’s how you learn how to take that first small step and start dancing into a wider world.

The promise Jesus makes changes the end of Matthew.   It’s not just a command of what we are to do now that Jesus is leaving.

No, this is an invitation into the dance of the Trinity itself, and a glimpse into how God is hanging around.   Not hugging the walls to see what we will do, but rather helping us step out in faith using every dimension of God at God’s disposal.

This is Jesus saying that as the Spirit and the Father and I have been weaving into the lives of those whom I have met these past three years… your lives… so now you have the promise of that continued presence.

When you “Go…” I go with you.  That’s the promise Jesus makes.

When you make disciples, it’s by living as you lived and learned with me, from me, from my presence, and the Spirit’s presence, and my Father’s presence… all wrapped up in one.   Disciples learn by following, and so when you live in ways that mirror the life of Jesus, others will learn how to follow by your actions and example.

“Teach”… well, where did you learn?   Where did you learn to be generous, or gracious, or loving, or forgiving?  Where did you learn that God loved you with an everlasting love?   You teach what you have learned, and what you have taken into your own life, and you do it by moving in the ways that you observed Jesus moved…

In other words, you know this dance of faith, and God in Holy Trinity is and ever will be your partner in it.

There is no need to stand around unsure or awkward.

You move, and God moves with you, light and confident and leading, or following your lead, or simply swaying at your side.  But God is there!

God is here!

That’s what Holy Trinity is about. Perichoresis, the dance of faith seen in how God moves, helping us learn how to take our own first small steps so that we can start dancing and bringing God with us into a wider world.

It’s Holy Trinity Sunday, and the music is playing, care to dance?

“Fear of the Spirit” John 20:19-23

I’m reading the Pentecost story a little differently this year.

I’m afraid of the Holy Spirit.

Let me explain myself a bit, lest you think that I’ve been infected with the general mood of fear and foreboding that passes for politics or national security these days.

I’m not afraid of immanent terrorist plots.  We spend far too much time and energy removing shoes and scanning bags in my estimation.   If all that screening went away I would still board a plane without fear.   And, if I were in London today, I would purposely take a walk on London Bridge because I refuse to live in that kind of debilitating fear.  That is how we defeat the power of terror, by going about our business undeterred, even if things occasionally go badly and if we do put ourselves at risk.  We have to show them the chosen tactic will not work.

I’m also not generally afraid for the future, despite the best efforts of current and past administrations to try to stir up fears of dire circumstances within me.   People are basically people, and they will do dumb things.   Individuals will act irrationally, occasionally go off the rails and strike out in a self-interested fashion to get their own way.  There is really nothing new under the sun to strike such fear in our hearts.

No, my sense of fear of the Holy Spirit resides not in the actions of others or the events of seasons and epochs turning.   I’m rather afraid of the reality of the Holy Spirit, and how that Spirit will come and what it will call upon us to do.

I’m afraid it will not act as I might think it should, or as I might expect it to.

Fear is present and very real in both the Acts account and in John’s Gospel.

In John’s Gospel fear is in fact the motivating factor for those first Disciples, and it is very much like our “TSA” kind of fear.

They live in fear of their fellow Jews.

They live in fear of those who are in the same city they are in.

They fear the actions of the mob, for they were able to get their hands on Jesus and dispatch him.

If “those people” could take out the teacher, what would stand in the way of them snuffing out the students?

So, the door is barred lest anyone who they do not know or trust come to find them and deliver them into the same fate as Jesus.  As long as we steer clear of “others” and keep to ourselves here behind these locked doors, we should be o.k.

Locked doors are a comfort when you are afraid are they not?  You can check them.

You make sure the bolt is secure.   You can test the hinges and latches by pulling and rattling, and the solid feel will allay your fear for a moment or two.

But really, not much more than that.

For even with locked doors, you still find yourself living in fear.   You catch yourself straining to listen to see if you can detect any sign of someone lurking just outside.

This is where Jesus finds his disciples in John’s Gospel, behind locked doors, which appear to be no deterrent at all to Jesus who simply pops up in their midst.

I have always pictured this as a serene moment, Jesus popping in as a relief, “Oh thank God you’re here Jesus…”

But then in the same instant that I catch myself thinking that, I remember that the reason those disciples are behind locked doors is because Jesus is dead and buried and they fear that they could be next.

In that mode of operation, (always watching out for someone to break in,) it is really no comfort at all to have someone suddenly apparate in your midst, is it?

What Jesus said when he appeared to them is recorded by John.  “Peace be with you.”

What is not recorded is what the disciples said when Jesus suddenly appeared. Maybe that couldn’t be written down!

Maybe it was “How the BLEEP did you get in here!?”

You see what I mean?  Fear is palpable in this story, and you would think to alleviate the fear, the best thing that Jesus could have said to them after the “peace” would have been to talk about how it’s going to be all right now, we’re all safe with me behind the locked doors.  Let’s just stay here.

But that is not what Jesus does.

No, the gift of the Spirit is breathed upon them and that is followed not by a promise to keep them safe but rather by a command that they are to be sent out.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you….”

I’m afraid, you see, that’s what Jesus has in mind for you and for me as well.  As much as we like it behind these doors.

I’m afraid that while our preference would be to figure out how to get more people in here, into the safety of the church, a place where we can sit behind our doors siloed and locked away with other people who are just like us, people we feel we can trust, that’s not Jesus’ interest!   That’s not the Spirit’s interest!

I’m afraid that when the apparition of Jesus appears in our midst, the Holy Spirit that he breathes on us will talk about us having to go out into an unsafe world.

“Peace”  Jesus says… and then “As the Father sent me… I send you….”

That should strike some fear in us.

The Acts passage has the same effect on me.   I grew up probably like many of you celebrating Pentecost as a kind of “Birthday of the Church.”  We would even have a party in Sunday School, bake a cake and light the candles to symbolize those tongues of fire and then sing the happy little song of “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”

In my mind that song was always connected with the little rhyme “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”

We would light the candles, sing the song, and blow the “wind” of the Holy Spirit over the candles and then enjoy get the cake… all done for us.

Pentecost was about Christendom, how we would be adding to our number day by day with every birth and with every baptism, and how the church would grow and grow safely from the inside with people who looked just like us.

After all, that’s again an image that fits the “locked doors.”   Here we all are safe and gathered in, here we are with all the people we trust.

But looking again at the Pentecost event as it is recorded in Acts, it is the element of fear that jumps out at me.  This is no birthday party!   The disciples are minding their own business when all at once a sound like a “violent wind” filled the house, flames leapt around.

This is not a birthday party, it’s a thunderstorm!

This is not a gentle sending of the Spirit, this is a wind whipped blast of fire!

I can’t help but imagine some weather channel meteorologist standing out in a storm, buffeted by winds that he cannot stand against, shouting into the microphone.  “What does this mean????”

I can’t read Acts now without conjuring up a vision of a reporter with a team of smoke-jumpers at a forest fire, trying to take in the scene as flames leap from tree to tree and whirlwinds of fire curl heavenward, shouting into the camera   “This is the scene here, and it reminds me of catastrophes of biblical proportion, And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.  The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood….”

And to whom is the Pentecost event directed?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Residents of Cappadocia….all those strangers visiting Jerusalem for the festival!    All those immigrants!  All those people who speak a different language than we do, who are different from we are.. and the amazing thing is that somehow these “Galileans” are able to communicate with them in their native tongue, connect with them in their own language.

This is the picture Acts wants to convey.  This is what the Holy Spirit is like.

It drives some to stand up.

It compels some to speak out in ways they are not accustomed to speaking.

It makes others hear what they need to hear, in the way it needs to be conveyed.

It makes some think the speakers are drunk!

It makes others stand to deliver defense.

It reminds some of the end of the world, and others of the great and glorious ‘day of the Lord.”

It gathers in the disparate, appeals to the outsider, and loops in those we would otherwise wish to exclude, distrust, or avoid.

In other words, how that Spirit works is much less predictable than we might like it to be.

This is Pentecost.

This is different from the way we usually think of listening to the Spirit.  We usually think of the Spirit as confirming our own convictions, being used as a kind of proof that what we are doing is the right thing.  “We’ll listen to the Spirit” we say in all confidence.

But the Pentecost event reveals that sometimes the Spirit speaks and it comes as a shock.

John’s Gospel reminds us that the Spirit’s work is not to make us comfortable, but rather to accompany us in the activity of entering this world as God’s agents. The world can be a dangerous, contentious place, often set in opposition to God’s gracious intention.

But it is still God’s world and it was for the redemption of the world that Jesus was sent.  God has something to say to this world, and we are the ones called to proclaim God’s intention in a way the world can understand.

Acts pushes us out into a world filled with those who are different from us, and calls us not to make them like “us”, but rather to learn how to speak their language.

So this Pentecost I’m developing what I like to think of as a “healthy fear” of the Holy Spirit, and I would invite you to as well.

Be afraid with me, not of the world, but of what God will call us to do in it.

Be afraid with me, of this God who pushes and sends and makes us act and speak in sometimes unpredictable ways, in order that Jesus may be made known.  Amen.

“What Did They See?” John 14:15-21

the-woman-at-the-well-daniel-bonnell“I wonder what they saw in Jesus?”  — Those first followers or the people who called Jesus “friend.”

Do you ever muse about that?

I do.

I wonder what it was that they saw in Jesus when he walked besides the shores of the sea of Galilee and called to those first rough fishermen.

What would prompt a person to give up their livelihood, (namely fishing,) to follow Jesus?

What would entice you to leave your own father, the boat, nets, and servants that would someday be yours – your whole inheritance and way of life to take up a life of listening to an itinerant preacher?

I wonder what Matthew the Tax collector saw that would prompt him to give up his lucrative position behind a desk to take up a lifestyle of itinerant living, dependent upon the kindness of strangers and the hospitality of friends and acquaintances?

I wonder what it was about Jesus that made Zacchaeus come down out of his tree and pledging to give up half of everything he owned to any he had defrauded.

What did the woman with a blood flow see in Jesus to want to risk it all by reaching through the legs of the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment — with no assurance at all that it would make any difference?

What made a Samaritan carrying her water jar even bold enough to approach a strange man hanging out by the well in the middle of the day?  Everything about this screams danger.  Women, would you keep walking if you were all by yourself and saw a lone strange man leaning against your destination?    What would you have to see in order to allow you to allow him to strike up a conversation?

What did they see in Jesus, that led them to such acts of trust, following, risk or even confrontation?

I think musing about that question has been the source of a good deal of artistic speculation through the centuries, (some of which I’ve just shared with you in these few images), but there are so many more depictions, and impressions.    In all of them we find the artist trying to capture what it was that perhaps caught people’s attention about Jesus in the first place.

From this earliest depiction from the Catacombs in Rome of the 3rd Century, of a dark skinned, clean shaved man in Roman dress.300px-Healing_of_a_bleeding_women_Marcellinus-Peter-Catacomb

To these more modern interpretations, (for better or worse!)  There is a sense that we are straining to find the best way to connect to Jesus, understand what people saw in him.

Was Jesus handsome and charismatic?  Is that what drew people to seek him out, to listen to him, to allow him to touch them and become the agent of God in their midst?

Or, was Jesus ethereal and otherworldly, radiating a sense of the strange and “not of this world” aura that peaked their curiosity and fueled their ability to listen as if he had brought some alien wisdom.

Was Jesus a “regular Joe”, indistinguishable from the folks you might meet every day in Palestine in that day?  Is that why he attracts working class, uneducated fishermen?   Because he looks like “one of them,” talks like someone who might have hit his thumb with a hammer a time or two as a carpenter’s son and therefore can connect with the hardships of their life?

Or, does the tax collector end up following because he senses in Jesus a kindred spirit, someone who talks about money quite a lot and seems to understand money’s appeal and power; even though Jesus talks about money very differently than Matthew has ever thought of it?

Our depictions of Jesus, our straining to understand what people find attractive, or intriguing, or alluring can sometimes get us into a bit of trouble.

One person’s powerful image, becomes another’s repulsive one.

“I can’t picture Jesus like that!”resize

Some can’t picture Jesus hanging around the Board Room any more than they can picture him as black and hanging around the ‘hood’, but the truth of the matter is throughout history Jesus has been depicted in the way that connected with the community and the people into which he was proclaimed, — from Black Jesus, to Asian Jesus, to Latina Jesus and every variation in between.

So again, I want to just lift up the question, “What did they see?”   What did the artist “see” in their attempt to capture Jesus in their particular context?

I think it’s important that we think about that, because as Jesus does his farewell discourse to his disciples here in John’s Gospel, he makes an implicit promise.

“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but YOU will see me;”— that’s what Jesus says.

That amplifies the question!  We need to know what those first disciples saw in Jesus so that we have some idea of what they would “see” again!   We need to wrestle with that so that we know what to look for ourselves!

How will we recognize Jesus?   We need to ask that question because recognizing Jesus is somehow integral to recognizing that promised advocate that is to be sent.

 “If you love me,” Jesus says, “you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”

That word, “advocate” can be translated any number of ways, but chief among them is “one who comes along side.”

That is what an advocate does.

He or she comes along side of you, accompanies you, goes with you, guides you, speaks on your behalf.

That’s why it is important that we understand what those first disciples saw in Jesus.   Whoever this “advocate” is that the Father is going to send, we are to recognize Jesus in him, or her, or in the spirit that they exhibit, because it is the same Spirit that Jesus has manifested.

We hear Jesus insist in John’s Gospel to Philip, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father, for the Father and I are one…”

And here now, Jesus takes it just a little further.   “…you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Seeing Jesus, and recognizing the advocate, is therefore somehow also connected to this matter of keeping the commandments and we hear that as hard, because the commandments are really hard to keep!   We know that.  We know that because the more you try to keep them, the more you have a feeling like you are always being caught with your hand in the cookie jar.  We just can’t resist doing some of these things, and others we reach in and sample without really thinking about it.

And so, we wonder with our inability to keep the commandments if we will ever be able to recognize this advocate that Jesus says he will send.

We’re not doubting that Jesus sends the Spirit, we’re just not so sure we will recognize it, that it will “come along side” us with all our disobedience and inability to keep the commandments.

But maybe what we’re missing in all of this is that in John’s Gospel, Jesus really only gives one commandment.  A commandment that is given just before this farewell discourse, back in chapter 13, when Jesus washes the Disciple’s feet.de7a2b970284c41cf1885f93be200618

Maybe what everyone who comes near Jesus recognizes is the kind of thing that even a blind man can sense… love and acceptance.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,”

By this, everyone will know…..

Maybe what everyone who comes near Jesus recognizes is the kind of thing that even a blind man can sense… love and acceptance.

It could be that we make this recognizing the advocate, seeing Jesus, much more difficult than it is.

When does the Spirit come near, when we begin to act toward one another the way that Jesus modeled.

Maybe, just maybe this matter of the Spirit coming is really a matter of recognizing that it is already in us, and it manifests itself when we do what we recognize Jesus would have done.

He told us we wouldn’t know what he had done for us until later…

It is later.

What did that first disciples see in Jesus?  They saw someone who would walk with them, and would not turn them away.

When do we sense the Spirit?  When we begin to walk with someone.  When we love them as Jesus first loved us.  When we speak on their behalf, or accompany them, and they us.

Maybe the Advocate comes in the midst of this Jesus work of how we choose to treat one another, and make no mistake, this is a choice.

It is a choice to wash feet.

It is a choice to love.

It is a choice to touch lepers.

It is a choice to heal the sick, the blind, and to raise up the lame.

It is a choice to listen, and to learn, and to walk alongside those with whom we may have deep disagreements and deep divisions, and really nothing in common, but the more you walk along side of someone, the more the divisions disappear as you love and understand.

What did they see in Jesus?   They saw someone, who saw them, and who was interested in them, and who took notice of them, and who loved them enough to engage them and call them and heal them and raise them up.

This is the Spirit that Jesus sends, the one that makes us recognize him in others.

“I see Jesus in you….” we say when that other one walks alongside us, and that is what they say to us in return, when we choose to walk with them through all the darkness this world is capable of dishing out.

This is what they saw in him.

May this be what is seen by those whom we meet, every day.  “I see Jesus in you.”

“Measured Life” John 10:1-10

Here is the problem with John 10.  It is just too full of mixed metaphors.

Is Jesus the Shepherd or the Gate?

Who is it that is climbing over the wall and how do we identify them?  By their actions?   By what they say?

I’m confused Jesus!

Evidently, so were Jesus’ original disciples since he has to take more than one crack at explaining his metaphors to them.

What are we supposed to take away from Jesus’ words here?

John 10 follows immediately after the extended story of the man born blind, whom Jesus healed and who then is set upon by the Pharisees who want explanations.  The whole of chapter nine is an exhausting exchange between this man who Jesus has touched and who wants to celebrate his good fortune and the Pharisees who want answers, trying to fit the event of his gaining his eyesight into their own system of how God is supposed to operate.

Everyone is questioned; the man, his parents, bystanders.

Accusations are hurled — about Jesus, about the man and what sort of man he is/was, and about the situation.

In the end the man Jesus healed sits dejected, not sure who or what to believe anymore.

It is at that point that Jesus re-enters the story, allowing the man who has sight again to “see” him.  Jesus make commentary on the blindness of the Pharisees.

It’s clear from that story that Jesus is indeed talking about the Pharisees with their rigid rules and categories when he talks about who are the thieves and robbers.

It is clear also, that Jesus is trying to issue a warning.  There is something about following the teachings of the Pharisees that robs you of something.

It all has to do somehow with the “abundant life” that Jesus has come to bring.

But this is again where we end up scratching our heads because we’re not really sure (along with the man who was born blind) what this “abundant life” is that Jesus has come to bring?  What does it look like?

What is abundant life?

In fact, this is a point at which I want to introduce a little audience participation in the sermon, because I’m pretty sure that we all have an idea of what abundant life might be.

So then, what does “abundant life” mean to you?

(Gather responses)

So, as I suspected, “abundant life” means different things for different people, and I don’t really think there is a “wrong” answer to that question “What does abundant life mean to you?”   I think variations in that are perfectly normal, because I think that what Jesus is really warning against in this whole section of John’s Gospel is what might be called “measured life.”

That’s what the Pharisees pursue in their questioning.  How do we measure whether this is from God or not?

Measured life we discover is exhausting.  Just ask the man who had been born blind.  As soon as he could “see” the first thing he ran up against was measured life, people trying to qualify, or quantify, or identify, or exemplify him.

It was exhausting, answering all those questions, and every time he tries to interject some witness to another way of living, “do you want to be a follower as well?”   He gets struck down and verbally assaulted as one who does not “measure up.”

“You were born in utter sin, and are you trying to teach us?”  The Pharisees bark at him.

Living a measured life is exhausting, and you know that because so much of your life is measured, is it not?

You live with a certain set of expectations about who you are to be, how you are to behave, and what is to be expected of you.

Expectations and measurement come your way in your workplace.   You feel it when you have to face the dreaded “performance review” or “annual review.”    Measurements will be taken of how you have acted, how you have performed in your position, how you “measure up” against colleagues, or expectations or quotas.

It will take something out of you, won’t it… even if you exceed expectations, you then have just set the bar a little higher for next year.

You live with certain expectations about relationships, and family, and family roles.

Am I a good father?

A good mother?

Am I living up to the expectations of my parents?  My peer group?  My coach?  My instructor?

How do I “measure up” in their eyes?   In my own expectation of myself?

A measured life seeps into the fabric of our daily comings and goings.

You have experienced a measured life if you’ve traveled.  There is the TSA agent barking out his or her orders, shoes off, jacket off, liquids out of the bag.  Laptop out of the bag.  Put it into separate bins.  No, not that way.  Be uniform, we’ve changed the protocol.  And if you have a green check on your ticket the procedures are different, but you can still be singled out for extra screening.

It’s all done for our safety.

It’s all done for our own protection and our own good.

It’s all supposed to make us feel safer, more in control, more comfortable with travel.

But, it is a measured life, and we feel it’s false assurance and constricting weight.

Even in the church there is an element of a measured life.   Is our church growing, or dying?  How do we measure up next to others?   What should the church be about?   Are we forgiving enough?  Faithful enough?  What is the measure to be applied?  How much we do?  How much we give away?  How many groups are welcomed?  How big our Sunday School is?  How much food we move through the pantry?  How many quilts we put out?  How much we collect for CROP walk?

Measurements abound!

We may not all agree upon what an abundant life consists of, but there is no lack of agreement about what a measured life looks like and its double edged possibility.

If we think we are “measuring up” there comes the danger of being complacent, taking things for granted, it will always be like this.

If we fail to “measure up” to expectations, then we watch what it robs and steals from us.

It robs us of dignity.

It steals in like a thief taking away things before we notice they are even missing, our innocence, our confidence, our trust in others.

The measured life makes us wary, fearful, and always ready to assume the worst in others and in events.

“You just can’t trust people, you know…”  so we begin to believe, and so we don’t.

That in and of itself becomes a thief, robbing us of the relationships that we all long for but are now fearful to engage in.

Robbing us as well of the opportunities to forge relationships which might indeed be life giving, might open up the pathway for living together in mutual trust and care for one another.

Oh, we know well the measured life!

Moreover, the measured life is what is pushed upon us and fed to us, often by those in authority who are supposed to be wise guides.

We are told the measured life is for our own good, or for the greater good.

We are sold the necessity to be vigilant, to fear the other, to watch for stranger danger, and in so doing we are assured that we will be kept “safer.”

But at the end of the measured life pathway there is no guarantee, no final word of reassurance, and no comfort.

So, while we may not agree on what the abundant life means for each of us, it is still what we long to have, and it is something that Jesus says we can only obtain by not listening to or following the “thieves and robbers” who sell us measured life.

Instead, we are to look to the one who opens the gate, who stands in it, and who watches over the flock.

Does this mean we’ll be safe so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus?

Yes, but let’s be clear also about what we mean by “safe.”

Jesus is, after all, the one who goes willingly to the Cross.

It’s not physical safety that is assured to us.

It is life that is assured and given, a quality of life that is not subject to the measurements of this world.

“Abundant life,” which often stands in stark opposition to this world’s “measured life.”

As alluring as it may be to want to be physically safe, if you follow Jesus the first rule of order is that you may be called upon to lay down your own life for the sake of the other.—be that friend or foe.

You are able to lay your life down in complete confidence that even if your life is required of you, what will follow in the wake of such sacrifice is still “abundant life.”  A kind of life that sweeps away the measurements of this world.

We know this abundant life.  We celebrate it when we see it in action.

It is the gift of organs that makes the sick to run and live thankful lives.

It is the estate plan well executed that gives hope and life to the next generation of an institution or agency, letting it impact the future.

It is the choice to not push back when criticized, to diffuse the hostile act and set aside the differences so that a new direction, a new and abundant opportunity can be pursued.

It is loving when you have no reason to love.

It is forgiving when the world would say to you, “exact the maximum penalty.”

Abundant life comes in the wake of every decision NOT to protect yourself, not to live a measured life, not to be bound by the constraints of this world that cannot imagine anything good coming out of Nazareth or anywhere else.

What is abundant life?   It is what it is for you, we may not agree upon it, but we can agree upon this.

Abundant life is not living under the oppressive measurements imposed by a world that cannot picture or imagine grace, or that it would be freely given, flung wide like a gate so that all can come in and go out and find pasture and graze in safety.

This is the kind of life Jesus offers, a life without measure, and free of “measured life.”

“Seven Miles of Denial” Luke 24:13-35

SilentI do this little bible study twice a week called “Coffee with Jesus” which is based on this “Radio Free Babylon” comic strip of the same name.

Sometimes we refer to that fourth panel up there where the comic typically drives home its point as the “Snarky Jesus” panel.

That can be troublesome for a few folks.

“What do you mean, ‘Snarky Jesus?’   When was Jesus ever capricious?  When did Jesus ever display a sense of humor or anything that resembled sarcasm or being a trickster?”

I could point to a number stories actually; but none of them has quite the bite and edge as this “Road to Emmaus” story.

This is indeed a ‘snarky Jesus’ if ever one was revealed in the scriptures!

For seven miles Jesus accompanies these two forlorn followers, without ever once interrupting their grief and shock to reveal himself to them.  Somehow his identity remains shrouded through the whole conversation.

  “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

He asked them, “What things?”

What have you been doing in Jerusalem these last three days?  They might just as well have asked him, and he might just as well have replied, “Oh, just hanging around and laying low….”

By not identifying himself right away, this is a Jesus who “plays along” with the situation.  Don’t tell me this isn’t a bit like one of those “coming home from armed services” gags where the father or mother hides in plain sight!

We are told in retrospect that “their hearts “burned” within them as Jesus opened the scriptures and explained things,” but during the walk they can’t put two and two together!

Moreover, they have the whole story right, and they end up witnessing to Jesus as they walk along with him.

They are talking through the important key events, clicking them off as if it was the creed.

“Jesus of Nazareth”

“A Prophet mighty in deed and word.”

“Handed over by our chief priests and leaders, condemned to death and crucified.”

“We had hoped he would redeem Israel…”

“Some women in our group astounded us…they told us of a vision of angels and how he was alive.”

“Some of those with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”

That’s pretty much the whole Jesus story right there, but they didn’t listen to the women, or to Jesus very well in life either!

In the Gospels Jesus had told his followers that they would see them in Galilee, and that he would go before them.

Of course you’re not going to see Jesus at the tomb! That’s not where you were supposed to look for him in the first place, Oh disciples!

The “Snarky Jesus” part of me wants to say, “if you’d just listened to the women in the first place, you’d have saved yourself seven miles worth of denial here!”

But then, the point that these followers are supposed to learn is that Jesus does meet you along the way.”

The point that they, (and probably we) are supposed to begin to understand is that Jesus is present with us in the midst of our grief, our disappointment, and our confusion.

The point that we are supposed to get out of all of this bewilderment is that Jesus has already gifted us with the ability to witness to the resurrection, even when we aren’t completely confident in it!

Oh snarky, snarky Jesus in his accompaniment with those on the road to Emmaus is letting them to discover as they journey just how much of the story they already confidently have under their belt!

And, maybe that’s supposed to be our take away from the story as well.

What keeps us from witnessing to Jesus?  Is it not that we have sometimes have convinced ourselves that we just don’t know what to say?

“I don’t know my bible well enough!”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

“I don’t know what to tell people.”

And so, we keep to ourselves, quietly shuffling along instead of engaging those we meet.  We’d like to say something, know that faith should compel us to say something, but we’re unsure.  We don’t want to get it wrong.

What if we looked at every opportunity to witness to our faith as if it were an “Emmaus Road” experience?

What if we began with the premise that all we are really doing here is telling Jesus what the Jesus we meet in that other person already knows?

“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place?”  the men say to Jesus.

And Jesus, simply plays along.

“What things?” he says.

He knows perfectly well the events, he has lived them!  But allowing a person to tell the story from their own perspective gives them the opportunity to make sense of it, and it gives them practice at telling it and making connections in their own life of faith.  Often times sharing in this way opens up moments of dialog that make hearts, and sometimes cheeks, and often times eyes burn as we tell our story of what God has done for us.

Maybe all we are really doing in witnessing to Jesus is telling the story of God’s accompaniment with us to that other person who already knows it all too well, but simply needs to hear it from out lips and from our perspective.   Sharing the story opens new avenues for understanding how it is that God is walking and working in this world.

You might for instance, already know that Jesus walks along with you in the journey, but isn’t it reassuring to hear someone else’s experience of that?

Or put another way, Cleopas and that other disciple may have heard the women’s story very clearly.  They can certainly recall it, recite it, but it hasn’t yet become their story.

Not even seeing the empty tomb made it their story!

It is all well and good that “the women” believed, astonishing really, but what difference does what they believe and what they have seen make in my life?

It simply isn’t their story of understanding Jesus’ accompaniment in life with yet, and its not until their hearts burn and their eyes are opened that the women’s story becomes theirs as well, and it happens in the telling of it.

Maybe it’s the same with us.   We tell the story of how God has met us along the way, as silly or strange or momentus as that story might be, and when we do, we can join the women, and Cleopas and Simon and all the others and acknowledge that they were right!  “We have seen the Lord!”

And now what do you do with that?

Well, for Cleopas and the other disciples, it meant running back the seven miles you just traveled again to confirm the story for those others!

It isn’t an “idyll tale” as we dismissed it earlier.

“The Lord has indeed risen!”

There is found in the sharing of the story a kind of confirmation.   “I get it now!   Jesus did appear to you, because this is how Jesus appeared to me!”

It may be different for us all, how Jesus appears.

Your story may be unique to your experience, but once it has taken place, then your story joins with my story, and with the Women’s story, and with Simon’s story, and with Cleopas’ story.

We all become witnesses of it to one another.

Jesus is not capricious, but he is at the very least one who delights in popping up and popping in and revealing himself at least for a glimpse in people’s lives.

That “glimpse” is often enough to fuel the telling of the story again, which prompts the next story from someone else, and so it passes on and forward again and again, and to make one wonder just where Jesus might pop up next!

This is the kind of Messiah Jesus has been all along, popping into the lives of people to heal, to forgive, and to surprise them with God’s compassion and grace.

Is it any wonder that Jesus is still that way?

It may be that Jesus comes off a bit “snarky” from time to time to lead us into finding our own conclusions.

“What things?”

Or, it may just be that at the end of our “seven miles of denial” Jesus is waiting to reveal to us what we should have known, and may have sensed all along.

A God who accompanies never truly leaves us.  As he promised, “I am with you always.”

“Earthshaking” Matthew 28:1-10

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake….”

This is the detail that Matthew contributes to the account of the Resurrection of Jesus that is not found in Mark, Luke or John.

Two earthquakes, to be precise.

The first earthquake marks the moment when Jesus dies.  It is creation itself seeming to lurch at the moment of Jesus death, throwing open the graves of many of the saints.

The second earthquake happens on the day of Resurrection.  This is when those open graves give up their dead, many of whom are seen walking about Matthew says, and understood to be a sign of God’s power to bring life from the long dead.

This earthquake is marked by the appearance also of the Angel witnessed by Mary, Mary Magdalene, and by the guards who faint as if dead when the Angel appears.

There is good reason to faint.

The Angel throws the stone aside from Jesus’ grave and then takes a seat upon it, much the way you or I might effortlessly toss a pillow on a couch and take a seat.

It’s such a significant event that it’s hard to see how the other Gospel writers could possibly have left it out or not mentioned it, which leads one to believe that Matthew has inserted this detail into the story for a specific reason.

It’s not hard to figure out what that reason might be.  Encounters with God are meant to be earthshaking!

Matthew is the gospel writer most concerned with making sure that we understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecy, and writing to his Jewish audience he knows that there are certain themes that weave themselves into encounters with God, and earthquakes are certainly one of those themes.

An earthquake shows up in the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai.  Moses is on the mountain and the mountain shakes with the presence of God.

An earthquake shows up in the story of Elijah.  While the dejected Elijah is seeking God on Mt. Horeb, peering from the cave in which he is hiding, Elijah experiences first a great wind, then an earthquake, and then fire.   All pass by the cave entrance, and when the noise and shaking abate, the presence of God is found in the stillness that follows, and that is what draws Elijah forth from the tomb of his own making.

An Earthquake begins the story of the call of Isaiah, and the mighty gates of the Temple rattle on their pivots as Isaiah has his vision, of the Seraphim who announces the presence of  God entering with their “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts!”

These are all earthshaking moments, when God comes near, and prophecy is uttered, or fulfilled, and God’s intention is finally made clear.

So, one piece of the puzzle of what Matthew is trying to convey is simply the power and presence of a God who comes to keep promises, and fulfill them.

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake…”    God is on the scene.

But there is another element of the story that I think Matthew is trying to convey, and it has to do with our own experience of what an earthquake does — to us.

This is a bit harder for those of us who are flatlanders and who have limited experience with earthquakes.  We’re more attuned to the destructive power of tornados, thunderstorms and floods than to earthquakes, so it requires a little more imagination to see the statement made.


If you have ever been even in a small earthquake, you know that the first thing it does is disorient you.

Earthquakes disorient.  They take what is normally firm and reliable and they change its very nature.

Earthquakes can make solid ground liquify. That will be the fate of the Interstate System in Missouri, or so they tell us.  When the New Madrid Fault has its major event, we can expect to see every interstate bridge across the distance from Kansas City to Memphis Tennessee simply sink into the ground as the loose soil liquifies from the vibrations, breaking the highway into segments, which in a matter of seconds will cripple all transit.

It staggers the imagination, disorients, who can imagine something like that?

Rocks split.

Landmarks shift, and buildings and towers topple and disappear.   We have seen this on television in the aftermath of earthquakes, but it is still a little unbelievable, and not something we can quite get our minds around.

What is most disorienting of all is the fact that nothing built by human hands remains unaffected, and there is no place that is “safe.”

Not indoors, where the building crumbles down around you.

Not outdoors, where the ground swallows, or the architecture falls on you, or the shaking of ground tosses you on unsteady feet and makes you helpless.

This is the truth about earthquakes, they disorient and disarm you completely.

We talk about building things to “Earthquake specifications” now, at least in areas that are most prone to such events, but what that really means is that we “build things to move.”  We do not build them to resist movement, but rather to embrace the movement as it happens.   You sway with what happens, or you fall.  Nothing stands against or opposes such forces and comes out unscathed.

This is what Matthew appears to be driving home in his Resurrection account.

Many things were done by human hands to try to oppose or stop God, to stave off the Kingdom Jesus announced, or to push back against the Kingdom Jesus came to proclaim.

A plot was hatched by religious leaders to thwart Jesus.

30 pieces of silver were employed, and you know nothing stands against money when it is properly deployed.

Solid relationships were corrupted, as the friend becomes the betrayer, and the symbol of love, a kiss, is made an instrument of betrayal.

There was a washing of hands by the government officials, as if the leadership could absolve itself of responsibility and erase the complicity of betrayal and its ineffectiveness.

Jesus was crucified so that there wouldn’t be a riot, at least not a mob that couldn’t be controlled and turned to a desired outcome.

Guards were set so that the tomb will not be bothered, and as a show of force of who was truly in charge.

A seal was set upon the tomb to warn off any would-be robbers.

Many things were attempted and employed by human hands to stop or oppose the power and the intent of God.  Matthew’s Gospel gives us all the details of what human hands could and did do to Jesus, and it all looked at first like the powers of this world had prevailed.

“And then suddenly there was a great earthquake…..”

In the wake of the earthquake all of those attempts to contain the intent of God by human hands and human hubris are left in total disarray.

This is the point that Matthew drives home with his earthquake.

Nothing devised by human hands prevails against the things that are set in motion by God!

The women become the perfect witnesses to the resurrection because of what we are told they leave the empty tomb with, which is, “fear and great joy.” 

Fear:   Yes, there is a lot to be afraid of here.   This is God’s raw power on display in this story that no human conniving can stop or oppose.

You have to learn to roll with this.

There is a reason to be afraid because of the Resurrection, God is intent upon having God’s way in this world, and Jesus does have a claim upon this world, and a claim on you.  As Rich Mullin’s so eloquently reminds us in his worship song “Awesome God” “it wasn’t for no reason that he shed his blood.”

So there is a point of fear at work here, because Resurrection ends up being earthshaking for us.   It affirms that whatever we think we can do to push back against God’s Kingdom, against God’s love is pretty much useless.

This is how Resurrection disorients us.   It is earthshaking to realize that God is so intent to save this world that he sends his only Son, who continues to be on the move even when we have done our best to stop him.

It is disorienting to think of God dying on the Cross, for us, and death not being the end of things.

It leaves us in disarray, unsteady on our own feet to realize that what we thought was permanent… death itself… can be overcome by God.

There is therefore no place safe.   No place to crawl into, or hide, or run to where God does not have power to reach us.

Not behind locked doors.

Not on the road to Emmaus.

Not back on the shores of Galilee.

Not in your home or your workplace, or any other place you may turn into throughout the week.

God is on the move, and nothing stops the God who comes to meet us in Jesus Christ.

Who can imagine that?

So there is fear, in realizing that there is no place that God cannot find God’s way.

But there is great joy as well.

The great joy of realizing all of this was done for us.

The great joy that comes from realizing that because Jesus is risen, we too may have eternal life.

The great joy that comes upon the women as the seize hold of Jesus again, by the feet this time, as if to just slow him down long enough to be assured that all the love he had for them could not be extinguished by this world.

This is the great joy of the resurrection.

Jesus returns to this world that crucified him, not to avenge or conquer with all the power at his disposal and angels that can toss stones like pillows.

Instead Jesus returns with just one clear message.  The promised Kingdom has indeed come near, and it cannot be stopped, and you will see him.   He goes ahead of you, just as he promised.

That disorients us as much as any earthquake.

Easter is earthshaking.

God loves this world.

God loves you.

In the midst of all that powerful and disorienting love, all you can really do is  learn to “Roll with it.”

“In the Face of Betrayal” John 13:1-35

“So, where is this Kingdom Jesus keeps talking about?”    One has to admit, this is the single most difficult sticking point for being a Christian, and has been all 2000 years down range from Jesus.

Jesus came proclaiming a Kingdom that was supposedly breaking in upon this world.   He healed the sick, fed the hungry, commanded those who had two cloaks should share one if asked for it, and made it all sound like any day now the world would be changed.

And then, it didn’t.

Crucified, dead, buried, descended into hell, on the 3rd day rose again… ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father…. We profess that Jesus is all of that, but the world is still chugging along as it always has.

We still have the same political intrigue.

There is always someone vying to be on top.

There is always someone promising that they have all the answers, and then disappointing or back-tracking on promises.

There is always someone else getting caught in this scandal or the other, and the world as it chugs on its merry way seems to take peculiar delight in finding the dirty secret, the smoking gun, or the inconsistency that brings about the fall

No one is “squeaky clean.”

Where is this Kingdom of God that was promised?

It did not come with the end of the Roman Empire and the descent of the Dark Ages.

It did not come with Christendom, with the height of church power and primacy.

It did not come with Reformation or the Renaissance.

It did not come during the Industrial Revolution, or with the Space Race with the rise of Information Technology.

It did not come with the United States, or the EU, or with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Where is the Kingdom promised by Jesus, a world transformed?

Every generation looks to the innovations of this world, to the winds of change that blow through, and tries to interpret it as finally “the hour.”   This is the time when God is finally going to bring in that promised Kingdom, and the world will be a better place.

And then every generation in succession feels the bitter sting of the betrayal of their hopes, as events that seemed to hold such promise go from bad to worse, or the promise hoped for falls far short and is once again unfulfilled.

Where is this Kingdom of which you speak, Jesus?

Perhaps we miss the Kingdom because we are not listening very closely to Jesus, and what he point to tonight.

In John’s gospel we are told in no uncertain terms that Jesus knows what is coming.

He knows that this is “his hour.”

He knows that Judas will betray him.

He knows that Peter will deny him.

He knows that the disciples will all abandon him.

If ever there was a moment when Jesus could have jumped up on the table and shouted, “I know what you jerks are made of!” and listed off each offense in order, the shallowness of their commitment, and the duplicity of their actions, this would be the moment.

One of them was sneaking around and plotting behind his back for money.

Another is all bluster and bravado, but will have not one lick of commitment when the going gets tough.

The others are clueless, can’t seem to figure out a single thing on their own or see the issues even when they are right in front of them. .

You or I might have called time out, dismissed the whole bench of disciples here, and called for a “start over.”

That’s what we might have done in coming face to face with disappointment and betrayal.   It is what this world demands.

Find the guilty party, the smoking gun of ineptitude, scapegoat them, blame them for the failure and then start over with someone “more reliable.”

But that’s not what Jesus does.

Knowing all that he does, Jesus instead takes the towel, and washes the disciple’s feet, and tells them to love one another.

Knowing all that he does, Jesus breaks the bread, and shares the meal, and dips his portion into the same bowl as the betrayer.

He chooses to sit right next to him, recline with him, share this meal with him, even knowing what is about to go down.

Where is this Kingdom that Jesus has been talking about?

It appears it is right here!

It is knowing what you know, about the people around you, and despite what you know about them, still choosing to do this, to love them, serve them, be with them.

American Author and Mystic James Marion has observed that when Jesus talks about “the Kingdom of Heaven”, what he is really doing is offering a metaphor for a state of consciousness.  The “Kingdom of God,” — the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not some place to which you go.   It is not a destination, or a transformed world.

It is instead a state of mind that you come from.

It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place.

“The Kingdom of God has come near”  Jesus asserts, and tells his Disciples to announce it, and to do so by behaving in a way that this world does not always understand.

When confronted with too many mouths to feed, he commands to the disciples “You give them something to eat.”

In sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom, he tells them to venture out ill prepared.  “Take no staff, no second tunic, no extra sandals, but when you enter a house say ‘Peace….”  Who leaves with no travel plans and no luggage?

This is not about the world changing to meet your needs, this is about you changing and in the process, the world changes.

This is what Jesus does in this story, on this night, in the washing of the feet of those whom he knows will betray and disappoint him.   He does it anyway, and in so doing sets the expectation that this world will not be changed by “quid pro quo” deals, but by acts of service.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  Jesus asks.  13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 1

The Kingdom is found not in a place, but in a choice made, an action undertaken even knowing what you know!

The Kingdom of God is not so much a destination to which this world will arrive some day, as it is looking at the journey of life in this world and choosing to behave in a way that defies the expectations of this world, and in so doing brings into this world the expectations of God, and the reality of God’s Kingdom.

The world would have fired all the disciples for their betrayal and disappointment.

Jesus instead washes them, and commands them to love.

This is the expectation of the Kingdom.

We too often think of the Kingdom of God as something that Jesus will bring in some day, and when he does, this world will be changed.

But instead, in the actions of this night Jesus lays the example of how the Kingdom is brought in every day by the decisions we make as his disciples and the actions that we can choose to take every day.

For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

This is how the Kingdom of God comes upon us, not from without, but it emerges from within, ….what you choose to do in the face of the world’s disappointments and betrayals.