Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Ashanti of Ghana and the Gyaman of Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. They represent concepts or aphorisms, and are extensively used in fabrics, pottery, logos and advertising. This one represents the very hard seed of the wawa, serving as an inspiration to persevere.

Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Ashanti of Ghana and the Gyaman of Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. They represent concepts or aphorisms, and are extensively used in fabrics, pottery, logos and advertising. This one represents the very hard seed of the wawa, serving as an inspiration to persevere.

A sermon preached for The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Jeremiah 31:27-34Psalm 119:97-1042 Timothy 3:14-4:5, and Luke 18:1-8.

Two stories. Story #1 is about Louise, the prayer lady.

Every single person at All Saints, East Hartford, CT, knew Louise as “the prayer lady”. Old, young, member, non-member, man, woman – everyone had found themselves on the receiving end of one of Louise’s prayers.

Her prayers typically would arrive with the mail in a greeting card or on an elegant piece of stationery bearing a handwritten note that included your prayer. There, in Louise’s slightly crooked cursive, would be two to three very concise sentences of encouragement, of hope, of challenge. And then, from her ample library of prayer books or from her Bible, she would have copied the prayer or the verses meant most especially for you. She always hit the mark.

Louise prayed for births and deaths;

  • for suffering, sickness, and struggles;
  • for brokenness and failures.
  • She prayed for the ache in our lives even we didn’t know how to name.

And Louise prayed for her church. I barely had my foot in the door when Louise came to me, frustrated. “There’s no prayer in this church” she lamented. “Not a single group gathering for prayer. No wonder we’re so contentious. No wonder we’re so stuck. So I think I’m going to start one,” she said. “And would you mind if we started by praying for you?”

When you put it that way, what was I going to say? Louise gathered up a group of about six people. They prayed for each and every aspect of the life of that church. They prayed for children and youth,

  • for confirmands,
  • for fledgling new ministries;
  • for finances, missions, worship, outreach, education;
  • they prayed for every hint of divisiveness in the church, and there was a good bit of divisiveness.
  • They prayed for adults Louise felt simply needed to be held in the heart of Christ.
  • They prayed for the Spirit to come and fill our life together with holy gifts.
  • They prayed for God to make a way when it looked like there was no way.

Louise and her little group gathered in the chapel and prayed and everyone knew it. The church trusted their prayers. Whenever we found ourselves in a tight spot, I would say to the staff—“It’s going to be OK, Louise is praying.” And I meant it.

This woman knew persistence in prayer, and she came to embody for many of us the love that lives in the heart of God.

When I turned fifty and Louise was in her eighties, she sent me prayer. In essence, it read “Oh honey, only fifty? God has plenty of time to turn you inside out and upside down a few more times. Enjoy it.”

Louise used to say that, for her, God was “all the way down”, where our hearts make their home.” For Louise, all the way down, at the bottom of it all, was where her prayers began.

Story #2 is from the crime blotter of Manassas, VA

Mona Shaw was having some problems with her cable company. Company technicians had failed to show up for the scheduled installation of a new service. Then two days later they came but left with the job half done. Two days after that they cut off all service. Determined not to give up, 75-year-old Mona and her husband went to the local call center to complain but was told to wait on a bench outside in the August heat. Finally, after two sweaty hours the customer rep leaned out the door and said the manager had left for the day. “Thanks for coming!” he said.

Do you know the experience—when it seems as if you’re dealing with inscrutable corporate powers that are treating you like a nobody?

Well, Mona Shaw decided she wasn’t going to take it any more. The next morning she gathered up her husband and a ball and peen hammer and said, “C’mon, honey, we’re going to the cable company.” When she walked into the office things got a little out of control.

  • BAM! She smashed the keyboard of the customer’s rep with the hammer,
  • BAM! She hit the monitor,
  • BAM! the telephone was next.

People scattered and screamed, the police showed up, and off she went to the police station. Virginians can be scrappy. But, I think Mona Shaw along with Louise the Prayer Lady are the lineal descendants of the widow we heard about in our gospel this morning.

That widow had her own problems, dealing with a crooked judge who couldn’t care less about insignificant people like her. We don’t know exactly what brought her to the judge, but to be a widow in that day and time was about as vulnerable a position as you could be in. And this pushy, pestering woman wasn’t going down without a fight.

“Grant me justice,” she demands again and again, irritating the judge.

  • She pursues him on the streets of the city;
  • she hounds him until he can’t take it any more.

until finally the judge gives in, and her persistence carries the day.

Jesus told the disciples this story so that they “would pray always and not lose heart.” Life can be hard, and disappointments are real, and we would have to be made of stone not to feel discouraged sometimes. But persistence and perseverance, Jesus seems to be suggesting, is what enables us to find our hearts again,

  • to connect to our heart energy and live from that place inside
  • even when externally, there is little to show for it.

Theologian Walter Wink says persistence in prayer is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite lists of concerns we usually offer in our churches. It’s Mona Shaw – without the hammer. But it’s also where Louise found her home with God “all the way down”, a way of being with God in the struggle of our days.

In a few moments we will offer our prayers for today. We’ll say them politely because that is our way, but let’s pray them with all our heart, trusting that the prayers themselves will help us find our hearts.

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Remembering Christopher Hardy

hardy_chrisA homily presented for the Funeral of Christopher Hardy at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Camden, ME. Lections: Ecclesiastes 3:1-7, Psalm 23, 1 John 3: 1-2, and John 14: 1-6

I did not know Chris Hardy well. I’ve been the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockland for not yet two years but I was fortunate enough to enjoy his presence in church every now and again, to delight in hearing him sing with the St. Peter’s choir, to visit him pastorally in his illness, and to learn about him from his friends, who – look about you – were legion and who loved him so.

I don’t know anyone who didn’t recognize Chris as an open, curious, and accepting friend, with a warm and ready sense of humor. One person said, “the word that comes to mind when I think of Chris is ‘gleeful’ – no, not just gleeful – wicked gleeful.” And I immediately saw that impish grin. The eyebrows. That beautiful face.

When Chris appeared in church my first year, he was greeted with such affection that, of course, I assumed he was a regular member of St. Peter’s who had returned from vacation. And, while Chris obviously loved the folks at St. Peter’s and was loved in return, Chris was how I learned about how useless any notion of strict parish boundaries or membership lists were to this part of the world. And that’s a good thing in Chris’s case,

  • because it speaks to his ability to range widely and with love,
  • smudging any administrative line that might inhibit the love of God
  • or how God worked in Chris
  • and can work in all of us.

I thought of Chris as an imp with real soul depth. He had a magnificent sense of humor and an especially winning love of people’s particularities and foibles. The more people could be truly themselves, the more they could be the characters they really were, the happier Chris was.

He knew everyone and everything and loved it all.

  • A guardian of village life and lore,
  • he always knew the inside story and the cast of characters, major and minor, and could put them in place for you
  • he loved a good developing story (and the Episcopal church) which, of course, meant he never lacked for material to work with
  • But he was never petty, never spiteful
  • “Not a mean bone in his body,” said another.
  • Far from being an idle gossip, Chris was a bearer of the news of people’s lives.
    • and he knew the lives and the news mattered
    • knew how to notice a telling detail
    • accepted that all of us is flawed and was especially good with “difficult people”
    • and all, I think, because he assumed that were are all children of God.
    • and, because of that, he delighted in us, delighted in himself, delighted in this world

I love that he we’ve read that First Epistle of John because it says it so plainly and simply: “we should be called children of God; and that is what we are…. Beloved, we are God’s children now.” Even the use of the word, “beloved” feels so Chris, because that is how he saw all of us.

Shortly after learning of his cancer diagnosis, we had occasion to meet and talked briefly about the gospel that was chosen for today. Did Chris choose this? He asked me what I thought about the text and especially the last line.

Being the careful pastor, I asked him what he meant…. what did the passage mean to him, and we gently entered into a thoughtful, generous, theological discussion of the wideness of God’s mercy, to quote one of our favorite hymns.

The gospel opens with the idea that in God there’s room for everyone. There are all those dwelling places prepared in heaven. KJV translates it “mansions” (in my Father’s House are many mansions”) and Chris commented he hoped God was not really downsizing from mansion to mere dwelling place, or worse, simple rooms. (Smile.) But the deeper idea, that there’s space for everyone, and that God prepares a space for each one of us, struck Chris as so right.

But the last line can be vexing: No one comes to the Father except through me. “Do you believe that? No one comes to the Father except through Jesus?” And by now I knew him better and could answer: “yes, absolutely, but not the way many people think.” The eyebrows went up, the smile began….. yes?

Look, lots of people see this as saying that you have to make a affirmative belief statement (whatever that might be, said Chris) to know God in a deeper way, thus eliminating Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and, well, most people who have ever lived and who never got in line (before the belief statement adjudicatory, he laughed), but it seems to me Jesus is just acknowledging that no one gets to God except by means of God.

  • We can’t do it on our own.
  • It is God within us that draws us to God,
  • that reckons us as children of God
  • that helps us see God in one another,
  • and that helps us trust that not only is there a space for you but for others who have shown you the divine presence

“God’s indwelling spread abroad; the wideness of God’s mercy again!” he beamed. He seemed to like that.

What I imagine now is Chris, dwelling in the nearer presence of God in that many-roomed mansion, lit up from within by God’s own celestial light. Can you picture it…  we look up into the windows, see the laughter and conversation, the delight, and maybe even catch a glimpse of Chris even now, going from room to room, learning the cast of characters, and, like the God who grows in him more and more, delighting in every last foibled and character-ful one. Thanks be to God.

Special thanks to all who relayed their Chris Hardy stories over the past week, and especially to Chris McLarty for her insight and perfect turns of phrase, which found their way into this homily.

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Finding Space for Gratitude

Ms. H visiting Richard Serra, "Interval" at Gagosian Gallery, 2014.

Ms. H visiting Richard Serra, “Interval” at Gagosian Gallery, 2014.

A sermon preached for The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7Psalm 66:1-112 Timothy 2:8-15, and Luke 17:11-19.

This past week, I took a FT call from my friend Ann, who had served as a spiritual mentor when I was in seminary.

  • She is a nun,
  • a member of the Sisters of Mercy,
  • and now lives in a nursing home for the poor.

She had to leave the Mercy Center, in Madison, CT, where she had spent the previous 25 years of her life, two years ago because her health had deteriorated beyond the ability of the sisters to care for her.

I remember when the discussions started about Ann having to move. I had gone with her to the nursing home to have a look around, and I remember how depressing it all was. Ann had been a professor of French History. She had traveled the world, written books, spoken to large gatherings in the US and abroad. Ann also has a keen aesthetic sense and especially loved fineness, and I remember how dispirited she seemed as we left the hospitally-seeming nursing home. She asked me if I thought there was anything we could do about the dull, olive green of the linoleum on her floor.

But a few days ago, she told me how grateful she was to be in that particular nursing home for the poor.

“I have everything I need here,” Ann told me. “And the most important thing,” she said to me, “is that I think I needed to move here.

  • I needed the spaciousness
  • and the extra time in my life that this place gives me,
  • to realize just how blessed I am and how blessed I have been throughout my whole life.
  • If it weren’t for this place and the people who take care of me here, I don’t think I would ever have realized how truly blessed I am and how wonderful life is.”

It reminded me of something Albert Einstein said. “There are only two ways you can live your life:

  • One is as though nothing is a miracle.
  • The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

***             ***             ***             ***             ***             ***             ***             ***

This conversation with Ann moved me. Grateful people have that effect on us, don’t they? And Ann’s comment about the need for more space in her life, in order for her gratitude to take shape, especially caught my attention.

One of the things that concerns me about our polarization in politics and society today, especially in recent days as we near the election itself, has been the sense of persistent tension in the air, the slow burn of stress and anger and anxiety. Maybe you feel it, too.

And the effect of such a persistent, slow burn of tension and stress is that our natural capacity for gratitude is suppressed, and our souls can’t emerge into the light of day in our daily lives.

  • We all need the kind of welcoming spaciousness that Ann talks about.
  • Or we need God to break through the routine of our lives somehow, to awaken our gift of gratitude and free our souls to breathe again.

Our friends and family can do that for us, sometimes. You know what it’s like to be in a perfectly ordinary situation with a few friends or family members and quite out of the blue, somebody stops the conversation or interrupts the quiet and says,

  • I just need to tell you how wonderful you are..
  • This time with you means more to me than you will ever know.
  • I feel blessed just to be here

Expressions of gratitude. There’s something about this kind of thing that opens up a spiritual space inside ourselves, and it opens up space inside the people around us.

  • Expressing our gratefulness magnifies our souls,
  • it opens up our lives,
  • and even heals us.
  • And when someone speaks words of praise and gratitude in a group, it can feel as if a doorway opens up for all of us to enter.

I think this might be what happens in the Gospel story about Jesus cleansing ten lepers. Ten people were cured of a skin disease, but only one of them, by virtue of his very public expressions of gratitude, was deeply healed.

Jesus said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” The Greek word here translated as “well” means “your faith has made you whole,” “your faith has saved you.”

  • All ten of the lepers were cured,
  • but when this one leper returned to express his praise and thanksgiving, a whole new door opened for him,
    • a door into the fullness of his life,
    • a door into the Kingdom (to use New Testament language) – a door into a deeper awareness of God’s active, loving, healing presence here and now.
    • And so, Jesus says, “Go on your way, enter through that door to your new and wonderful life.”

This is the narrow door, the door of gratitude. Nine out of ten choose the wide door, but this doorway of gratitude and faith…this is the narrow way to our true life.

There are all kinds of very good reasons to focus on serious problems and issues that surround us today.

  • There’s a lot wrong with the world.
  • I think we all sense that.

But one takeaway from this morning’s Gospel is that it’s mighty easy to get stuck on what’s wrong, and not spend enough time noticing what there is to praise, and to make a point of being publicly thankful.

  • It’s always worthwhile to ask ourselves,
  • what is beautiful and good and blessed about this situation, this family, these people, this life….

We’ve all experienced what happens when someone suddenly interrupts the normal flow of life and makes a point of praising and speaking gratefully. It’s as if the person is turning back from the way that nine out of ten of us tend to take. And the effect is life-giving, as if that person is opening a door to a new life.

Which brings me back to Einstein’s observation: There are two ways to live your life:

  • One is as though nothing is a miracle.
  • The other is as though everything is a miracle.
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Franciscan Perspectives

giotto-francis-preaching-to-the-birdsA sermon preached for The Feast of St. Francis, transferred to October 2nd, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Jeremiah 22:13–16Psalm 148:7–14Galatians 6:14–18, and Matthew 11:25–30.

Ask someone on the street to name a Christian saint. You might encounter a pause for a moment or two, and then my guess is the name you would hear would be St. Francis. And here at St. Peter’s today we remember and honor St. Francis with special readings, prayers and the Blessing of Animals.

Francis is the medieval saint who is most remembered now for his embrace of poverty and of Nature.

  • Born in 1182, the son of a prosperous cloth merchant in the Umbrian town of Assisi,
  • he grew up wealthy, spoiled, and self-indulgent,
  • eventually joining the military just for the adventure.
  • But in a war between Assisi and its neighboring city of Perugia, Francis was captured and spent a miserable year in a dark, grim prison where he also contracted malaria.
  • The harrowing experience changed him.
  • One day, after his release, he stopped into an old, falling down church, San Damiano, that had a striking crucifix hanging behind the altar. Standing inside, it seemed as if Christ was looking directly at him, and he underwent a profound religious experience that opened up a way of life and meaning and purpose.

He began dressing in the hooded tunic of a peasant, imitating as closely as he could Christ’s poverty. The self-indulgent son of privilege now poured all his passion into living as Christ had lived. At first he was ridiculed, but slowly he won people’s respect and began to draw disciples around him.

Some of you may remember a Franco Zeffirelli film called “Brother Son, Sister Moon” that captured both the spirit of Francis himself and the spirit of the hippie, flower-child age. There’s a scene when Francis, being tried in the public square for selling his father’s bolts of cloth to give money to the poor, takes off all his own clothes, declares his freedom from the clutter of possessions, to become a wandering, penniless servant of God.

Philip Mangano, who led the federal government’s efforts to fight homelessness under Bush and Obama, once explained he was converted to the Christian faith watching that movie. All of a sudden he saw what a life fully alive could look like, and the cause of the poor became the work of his life.

The impulse to care for the poor and to accept poverty himself made Francis a critic of wealth, consumerism, and ostentation. And he was not silent in his critique, especially as it applied to Christ’s Church itself. This led to a run-in with church leaders over his preaching. To silence him, Francis was forbidden to preach to people. “Fine,” said the fiery, charismatic Francis, then I’ll preach to the birds. Maybe they’ll listen.”

So that image we have of him in stained glass or in garden statuary of Francis with birds all around as a beautiful, peaceful kind of Dr. Doolittle character, is a little off. It was personal rebuke and rejection that brought Francis to preach to the birds – a place of pain, of humiliation, of failure. But that experience of poverty to his ego (death to the self) led to another conversion moment.

  • First struck by the overwhelming beauty of the countryside,
  • Francis became newly and deeply aware that God was vibratingly alive in all of Creation and that he was part of that, at ONE with all other Creatures and that divine love.

One theologian commented, “For Francis, God was not a thought or an idea but the experience of reality, a reality … in which he saw himself as part of the whole in the unity of love; it is the way the universe looks after the ego has disappeared.” (Ilia Delio, Making All Things New, 166).

The Zeferelli film gets this right, btw. After his conversion the Umbrian countryside lights up – not as cartoonishly as going from black and white Kansas to Technicolor Oz, but still there’s a new intensity to the colors that brightens as Francis’ convictions develop, until at the end we are in the papal palace amidst all the sumptuous finery and jewels, it is Francis and his friends and it is their scuzzy plain brown robes and dirty bare feet that are the most luminescent and beautiful.

To my mind (and apparently also to Jorge Bergoglio, who chose Francis as his papal name), Francis of Assisi may be the essential saint for our time. In a world that increasingly seems smaller, more frightened, and more self-destructive, St. Francis can show us another way.

Did you catch in the psalm we sang this morning the sweep of God’s providence and loving care for everything on earth—the springs in the valley, the mountains and the fields, the beasts and the birds, the grass and all the plants? “O Lord, how manifold are your works!”

And did you catch the grandness of God in our Epistle? Nothing that we fuss about and think is crucial in this world matters compared with Christ, in whom all things are made new. In him there is a new Creation that touches all that exists, including you and me. All are made a new creation in Christ.

This is the God that Francis shows us—not a small, tribal, personal, care-giver god, but the God of all creation—the God who cares for every living thing, and even for the mountains and oceans and streams. And who invites us to see ourselves as loving, being loved and in communion with that Creation and all that is in it.

Francis would carefully step over stones in a river, lest he disturb not only any animals on his way but the stones, too. That kind of perspective, that we are at one with all of God’s creation, has important consequences. It invites us into a place of solidarity with creation, so that we can appreciate that it is we who are harmed when species are made extinct through, say, the development of the Amazon. Species extinction means the tragic loss of ways God has been made manifest in the world and of voices that in their simple existence had sung God’s praise.

Moreover, the modern Francis insists, there is a connection between a willingness to exploit an environment for profit and a willingness to exploit a people in whose back yard that environment exists – whether we are talking about the Amazon as a source for new pharmaceutical drugs or the mining of rare earths for chip manufacture in central Africa or the construction of a pipeline through sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota.

Both Francises invite us to notice the stone under foot – to ask how local cultures are to be heard, respected and given agency. To treat creation from a position of solidarity, of inter-connectedness, of one-ness so that we take the time, a sacred Sabbath space of time, to consider: are we taking all of that into account; can this be done differently? It seems such a small gesture, but it’s the necessary perspective, Francis shows us, that can save the world.

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Curiosity as Spiritual Discipline

Curiouser and CuriouserA sermon preached for The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, and Luke 12:32-40.

There’s a site on the internet called The Phobia List. It is exactly what it sounds like.  Hundreds of phobias are listed, arranged alphabetically. I learned a few things looking at it:

  • Theophobia is the fear of religion or the fear of gods.
  • Hierophobia is the fear of priests or the fear of sacred things.
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words and
  • Hellenologophobia is a fear of Greek terms or complex scientific terminology.

I suppose we’re all afraid of something. But as a spiritual exercise, it’s not at all a bad thing to think for a minute or two about our fears. Bishop Lane wrote us about our fearful times (letter in back) and we had two thoughtful, prayerful gatherings this week on that letter. Thank you all, who came. Our readings today continue that theme. They have to do with what we may fear, with God’s desire that we be brought through and beyond fear, and finally, our scriptures offer a hint of what a fearless world might look like.

We begin with an angry prophet Isaiah that, overwhelmed by fears, we can even misunderstand worship, turning ritual gatherings meant to connect us with the ultimate force of love in the universe into shallow occasions where a duty has been discharged or a commitment satisfied, but where our lives remain unchanged.

The Epistle reading, from Hebrews, is a beautiful hymn (almost) to faith—faith, in many peoples’ minds being the other side of fear.  By faith, Abraham obeyed, and looked, and followed.  By faith, Sarah laughed, and followed, and conceived.  In the letter to those early Christians, which we call the letter to the Hebrews, we’re given that famous definition of faith:  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”  But how to tap in to that faith, that comfort, if you’re overwhelmed by fear?

One of my favorite books is Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. If you haven’t read it, maybe you saw the movie. In the story, Flora Poste, a smart nineteen-year-old from London, is orphaned and begins to write various relatives to see where she might live.  Eventually, she receives an invitation from the Starkadders, who think that Flora’s father had been done wrong by their clan at some point, and so they owe it to Flora to take her in.

She arrives at Cold Comfort Farm, the Starkadders’ place, that is just about falling apart.  And there are dreary characters in every direction.  The cows are named Aimless, Graceless, Feckless and Pointless.  The whole sad family is ruled by a matriarch, Aunt Ada Doom, who refuses to come out of her room in the attic because, years ago, as a girl, she “saw something nasty in the woodshed.”  We never learn what she saw, and it doesn’t seem as though anyone in the family knows.  It’s not even clear if she still knows what she saw.  But the fear that began in the woodshed has completely infected her.  That fear has changed her and made her small, and scared, and sad.  And Aunt Ada Doom’s fear casts a spell over the whole farm.

I don’t want to spoil the whole story for you, but I will say that the arrival of Flora Poste, and her commonsense way of interacting with each family member eventually helps Aunt Ada to leave the fear in the woodshed where it belongs, and step into life again.  And guess what?  As soon as the fear is let go, the whole family finds freedom.

It reminds me a bit of a post I saw and liked so much I shared it on the St. Peter’s FaceBook page this past week. In it, Benjamin Mathes, a 30-something blogger, described his part in a thing called “The Free Listening Project”. Mr. Mathes, who I’m guessing was a Bernie Sanders’ supporter, went to the RNC to learn “How to Listen When You Disagree” (that’s the title of his blog post). He stood outside in the heat with a sign around his neck that read “Free Listening” – offering himself as a person who would listen to whomever came along.

Most people who came up to him told him about their families, their jobs, and the things that brought them to Cleveland. Eventually, a woman came forward with an issue that mattered and about which she had strong feeling. It was a hot button issue, and it came with anger and emotion and vitriol.

Mathes observes that it takes a lot of forgiveness, compassion, patience, and courage to listen in the face of disagreement. But he learned through this experiment that the one thing that makes forgiveness, compassion, patience, and courage even possible, is working to hear the person and not just the opinion. A fellow blogger who calls himself Agape, says it like this: “Hear the Biography, not the ideology.”

So when that woman stepped forward and spat out her passionate anger, Mathes said, “Tell me more.”

And I want us to notice two things here. The first is a stance of humble curiosity. He was not looking to make a point or enter into a debate. He came with no particular political agenda, no verbal shield and sword. He came with something better. Curiosity.

I always think that if you can let yourself get curious about something, that is a way to invite the Holy Spirit in. Difficult person making your life miserable? Can you get curious about them? Can you draw closer rather than further away? Takes practice but it’s a fundamental spiritual discipline, and one Jesus encourages us to adopt.

The second thing worth noting here is the focus on the person. Mathes sought to learn about the woman by asking her about her biography, her story, the things that shaped her life. The woman told a story and as he recounted her story, he wondered on reflection if she had felt his heart breaking for her.

That is love at work. You can call it empathy, you can call it love, you can recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit.

  • For Isaiah, that sort of encounter is real worship.
  • That is prayer, as we talked about it a couple of weeks ago – prayer as a stance, a way of being in the world that is a connected way. A way of love and communion… instead of a way of judgment, analysis, critique.
  • For Jesus, that kind of love at work is what he means when he invites us to wear a purse that will never wear out because it is filled with God’s own treasure – a way to begin to forgive each other and show love in practical, real ways.

And, notice something else, just to bring us home… There’s no fear here either. In the face of that kind of curiosity, that kind of love, fear just disappears, it evaporates. It left Cold Comfort Farm (just put it in your cue and watch it after the Olympics is over) and it left Benjamin Mathes’ heart.

If this is Kingdom living, then, gracious Lord, let your Kingdom come.

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