Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to Help Ugandan Orphans

Short answer: donate here.
But read more. Listen carefully because this is a difficult one. There are differences of opinion, philosophical debates, historical analysis, and a lot of hyperlinks going into this entry. How DO you help Ugandan orphans?
Unicef estimates as many as 3.5 million children have lost parents in Uganda. Half the population is under the age of 18, due to HIV/AIDS and other diseases, civil unrest, and the ravages of poverty. There are as many people (very young and very old) in need of direct care as there are working-age people capable of supporting them. Statistically this is hugely crippling for Uganda's chance at ever escaping poverty.

In one great class at SFTS this semester we have been looking into the question of poverty. Where does it come from, why is it here, does it help our society somehow? What's the moral quality of poverty - something to be desired, or to flee from? Can one (& should one) voluntarily impoverish oneself as a spiritual benefit? And what about helping? What do we DO? Governmental payments? Entitlement systems? Licensed begging? Church charity? NGOs? International efforts?
It's a dizzying array of uncertainty. Some propose that we can't fix the problems of poverty, but we ought to alleviate them as a good work for the sake of our own souls. Some propose that we CAN fix it, once and for all - but can't agree on how to do it.
States and churches have differed through the centuries as to how to take care of orphans. In some times and places they are taken into institutions for care, but sometimes they are sent out to relatives with a stipend for their care. In Uganda today there are different models among the NGOs. Some run a school for needy children, some simply pay for them to go to boarding school (not an uncommon educational model in Uganda). Some, alternatively, create alternative families - find a widow to be surrogate mom for a bunch of kids - and subsidize their living. Some create scholarships for the most talented, and some take in the neediest regardless of their academic promise. Some just provide microcredit for the adult relatives, and hope the wealth trickles down to the kids.
I have to admit that I do not know which is most effective. I simply have no idea. And there may be no one right answer. You can criticize charity , or look at microfinance critically, or take down the whole bleeding lot with sharp questions. My favorite quote from that last article is Esther Duflo comparing the entire range of aid work (from goodwilled volunteers to the World Bank) to "medieval doctors with leeches. We have no idea what we're doing."

With all this swimming around in my head, one way through it would be to call it all quits, take an intellectual chill pill, and focus on something closer to home. That might seem like the easy way out. But in fact it would be impossibly hard for me to bury my head that far beneath the sand. Even if I de-friended all my Ugandan friends on facebook, they'd get to me in my dreams.
Here are the facts. I support an orphanage - COU - Children of Uganda - because the children captured my heart (on a US tour, and later when I volunteered there), and because I cannot give up on them.
I know that bandages do not cure illnesses,
but I know that lack of bandages is a direct cause for infection.
I know that kids going to school does not solve the problems of the Ugandan economy, but I know that kids being out of school is a huge risk factor for them in terms of HIV infection, and that a small cash handout can keep them safe for at least a few more years (read a study here). I know that I cannot fix the world for the children I love, but I know that maize prices have risen astronomically this year and that if we don't keep the money coming for their support, these children will be the first to go without food. And right now I am fundraising. If you visit my fundraising page you can help me reach my goal of $3,000 this month. The necessary food and tuition fees will not wait for us, while we wonder which charity methods are most effective. The children need food, now.

Please consider how far your $10 donation can go, to cover the basic needs of a child who has nothing.

** For those who are curious about those various models and philosophies of aid, I'll say that COU covers a lot of bases. We run our orphanage for the youngest grades (primary school) like a boarding school, so they receive specialized care from experienced "aunties" and house mothers. We send older students to boarding schools. We have special incentives for the most gifted students (academically or musically), but we also care for the mentally disabled. We send most of the children back out to their extended families during school holidays, so that no one forgets what it's like to live in a family setting. We also work with the people of the village, supporting a women's cooperative by buying their goods, and providing educational opportunities and agricultural training to locals. We try to do everything we can.


childrenofuganda.org and my fundraising page
thanks for reading!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sermon - I thirst

It's way past Good Friday, but i forgot to post this. HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE! and now, if you want, you can plunge back into the depths of sorrow:


The fifth word – “I thirst.”
Calvary Presbyterian San Francisco, Good Friday 2011.

John 19:28-29: After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the scripture, “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there. So they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.
The word of the Lord

The living water is thirsty.
The light of the world has gone dark.
The true vine is withering.
The bread of life is hungry.
The resurrection is bleeding.
The true life is dying.

The king is enthroned - on an electric chair. The priest, dressed in his sanctified, seamless tunic – is stripped of that holy garment and sacrificed alongside the passover lambs. The sky has gone dark in the middle of the day. The world is upside-down.

The living water is thirsty.
And this is hard because I need some living water, and I don’t think I have any water of my own to bring him. Unlike the Samaritan woman at the well, I have no bucket. Or, well, I had one, but it’s at the bottom of the well because I was at the end of my rope and the rope just broke. I’m hot; I’m tired; my mouth is dried up like a leaf. I won’t last much longer. I need that living water. But now the living water is thirsty, and asking me for help.

The bread of life is hungry.
And this is hard because we are hungry. We were born hungry. We have been hungry our whole lives. We have done everything we can to stop the hunger. Sometimes we have found healthy, and life-giving bread to satisfy our desires. Sometimes we have found doritos and beer, and we crammed them in because we were longing for sustenance, but we wound up hungrier than ever before. We’re so hungry we can’t even sort out which is the true hunger, and which is a shallow craving. We hunger, we long, and we need that bread of life. But now the bread of life is hungry, and asking us for help.

Not so many days ago, Lazarus was in the tomb, and we all wept and wailed, and thought there was no answer to our grief. Jesus arrived and showed his glory. The light of the world shone into the tomb, darkness was transformed into amazing light, and our doubts fell away in an instant. Our deepest desire was satisfied, and we celebrated as if it were a wedding feast. But now we are grieving, inconsolable, wanting our loved one back, yearning with all our hearts for this not to be goodbye. We are longing for comfort, longing for a word of assurance. (reach out ) Longing for an answer – if he would only come and speak to us –
But now the living water is thirsty, the bread of life is hungry, and the answer to our problems is asking us for help.

Jesus was always the one who answered a question with another question. Sometimes it was cryptic but lighthearted. Like a riddle. He’d say “I am going away, and you cannot follow.” We’d say “what are you talking about?” and he’d say, “You are from below, I am from above.” We’d ask a question… about the blind man, “whose fault is it that he was born blind?” and Jesus would say, “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day.” What a great puzzle. When asked where to find food for five thousand people, Jesus would say “why don’t you just give them something to eat?” Jesus gave us very few answers. He gave us a lot of questions. And this is the hardest question of all – as he hangs on the cross, he says “I am thirsty.” He wants – he needs - He asks for help. Nothing big. Just some spare change. A little water to moisten his mouth. The Lord of heaven and earth is asking us for the scraps falling off our table. Our Lord is asking us to have mercy on him.

At the cross we see the face of our vulnerable God. And that’s hard, because we want God to be strong for us. We come to God with our thirst and hunger, longing for justice and for bread, and we want God to answer our questions, to satisfy our needs, and to put a stop to the endless wanting, aching, yearning pain of life as we know it. We would really like God to be the one who fixes it all.

We come to the cross with our needs, longing to be satisfied. We don’t get an answer. And we will not be satisfied here. But we get a new question, and we get transformed. We thought we were to be the recipients, but suddenly we see we could be the givers. I thought I was the enemy, but I heard Jesus asking for help – and look, it’s right within my reach – some of this common wine, and a little stick to put the sponge on – we find that we CAN relieve his thirst.

We have always found God in the blessing. We know God is there when we are healed, or satisfied, or answered somehow. Today we find God in the question, God in the wanting, God in the thirst. Today may we open up to an even deeper thirst. May we welcome in the pain of longing for justice, for wholeness, for light and life. May we also be thirsty. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Undoing of Creation

Matthew 27:50-54
Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

An orderly creation is characterized by clear demarcations and separations. God separated the light from the dark, the waters from the land, and the clean from the unclean. The Temple is all about separations; the Gentiles excluded on the outside, the women excluded in one court, non-priestly men kept away one degree by a wall, and finally at the center a curtain to veil God’s presence.
We know that Jesus was in the business of re-drawing those lines of separation, and that many were scandalized because of how he did this – accepting women into table fellowship, extending miraculous work even to the Gentiles, touching the leprous, the unclean, and the dead. We know something about “the veil of the curtain rent in twain” signifying the end to the separation between God and humanity. But we can only wonder about the shaking of the earth. Is there no more distinction between rock and not-rock, between the permanent and the temporary, the animate and inanimate?

The rocks mourned Christ’s death, the sun refused to shine, and creation called loudly for people to pay attention to the tragedy unfolding. But then things returned to normal. Men went back to oppressing women, well-meaning bishops built a new temple and set the curtain back up again, and the rocks sat back and kept their silence.
It’s a cloudy, rainy, mourn-y kind of Holy Week where I am, which helps me to feel appropriately solemn. I have remembered so many years when I wanted to stay in the gloomy mood created by the Scriptures, only to have sunshine and happy birds and all kinds of natural distractions pull me into Easter a day or two early. “Happy” vs. “solemn” is only the tip of the iceberg, though. I wish the earth would re-enact for us the uncreating of creation, as it did at Golgotha. I want to remember the earthquake – the shaking, the un-doing, the erasing of boundaries, and the possibility of truly leaving our walls and dividing curtains behind. We need to be disassembled if we are to be created anew with the risen Christ.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grateful for Apricots

Gratitude. A visiting scholar from UC Davis, Dr. Robert Emmons, made two presentations at my school last week about gratitude and its power upon our lives.
Gratitude is an expression of thanks to someone or something for a benefit given to us, which we did not deserve or earn. Regularly reflecting on gratitude (an activity as simple as keeping a journal, and each night writing down 5 things for which we were grateful that day) has well-documented positive effects on our lives, moods, actions, and health.

Psalm 147:7-9
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make music to our God upon the harp.
God covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
God gives food to flocks and herds,
and to the young ravens when they cry.

Gratitude is an important part of our Biblical tradition. If the creation stories of the Bible don’t tell us exactly how the earth was made, they do tell us one important thing: we didn’t make it ourselves. Neither did we do anything to deserve the earth and its richness. We are not entitled to it – we are privileged to enjoy it.

I had a moment of gratitude last weekend. My housemates and I were on retreat, and picnicked by Limantour Beach. We set up a picnic blanket in a relatively grassy spot surrounded by wild douglas irises. We had some oranges, a loaf of bread, almond butter, and two jams. One jam was from Trader Joe’s (blackberry preserves). The other was an apricot preserve. It was made by the elderly mother of an SFTS professor, who harvested the apricot tree in the backyard, sliced, cooked, and canned dozens of jars, and gave us some as a gift. Both jams were delicious. However, only one elicited feelings of gratitude. I was entitled to the blackberry, because I handed a few dollars to the clerk at TJ’s. I had no such claim on Grandma Betty’s Apricot Special.

What are you grateful for today?
What have you received as a gift?

...and I wonder what life would be like if we did less buying and selling, and more giving and receiving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a puzzle - a person

Daily Lenten Devotional for SFTS
John 9:1-17

Jesus is confronted with a question of theodicy: "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" His disciples pose it to him, as an intellectual challenge. If you start from the (common) assumption that such afflictions are divine punishment, how can you locate the sin for which a newborn was punished? Talk about a theological puzzle! Does life begin in utero? Do responsibilities and sins begin there, as well? Who wouldn't enjoy a little intellectual sparring over that issue? You could show off your theological prowess and end up with the respect of all.

Jesus, however, declines the question. He refuses to treat this man as an intellectual challenge. His disciples have offered him the throne of judgment, but he steps down and kneels in the dirt instead, making mud, touching the presumed sinner, becoming a caretaker rather than a judge. He treats him as a man - not a "blind man," not a "sinner," but a child of God in whom God's glory is being revealed.

Jesus recently said, "You judge by human standards; I judge no one" (John 8:15). His refusal to judge becomes a judgment - a krisis - a distinction - between his behavior and our own judgmentalism. How often have we treated people as puzzles to be correctly or incorrectly solved? How often have we shown off our knowledge and intellect instead of stepping in as a servant?

And how often has God come down to your level, taken hold of you, and opened your eyes?

prayer: O God, it is so easy for us to live our faith at the intellectual, safe, and thus superior level, rather than living into Christ. Thank you for not staying there with us, but seeking to touch our hearts, our eyes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wisdom and Milk


Exciting new developments in the world of biotechnology: Cows can now produce human milk. That's right. Read all about it on the UK's Telegraph.
Leaving aside issues of veganism, animal rights, and whether it's really desireable to nurse from other animals, when we were weaned off our human mother's milk decades ago... there are other questions.

Really, the bazillion dollar question is. "Just because we can, should we?"
We know how to do it. Well, sort of. More than half the first batch of genetically modified cows died, for unknown reasons, but that's probably a minor glitch in the system that can be worked out, eh?
We know that there are certain nutrients found in human milk that are lacking in cow's milk and in most baby formulas. For babies in need these are crucial. We can now turn cattle into living factories for essential nutrients. Awesome?

Genetically modifying plants and animals is a whole can of worms. My Material Theology class did a lot of work on debating their merits and dangers. My side (arguing against genetic modification) acted it out: we placed ourselves in a divine council, and God heard arguments against the dangers of GMO agriculture. In our heavenly council, there was an American farmer who had lost his land due to the monopolization process, an Indian farmer whose land was ruined by bad farming practices, and an activist talking about the agricultural-military-industrial complex. Jesus finally took center stage (in a kilt, to keep a bit of a gender balance - this is the GTU after all) and reminded people of the lessons of Job... to which I now turn.

The book of Job is in the genre of wisdom literature. It is a long debate about the merits of various theologies. How can you explain when bad things happen to good people? Job and his friends debate this for 37 long chapters. Then finally God speaks up:

YHWH answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements--surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

God further interrogates Job - he may know about domestic animals, being a man of many herds and flocks, but is he such an expert on the wild animals?

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
Can you number the months that they fulfill,
and do you know the time when they give birth,
when they crouch to give birth to their offspring,
and are delivered of their young?
Their young ones become strong, they grow up in the open;
they go forth, and do not return to them.

We have plenty of the "words without knowledge." We can talk an endless talk about how we think the world works. Yes, we may understand enough to perform open-heart surgery, and fertilize ourselves in vitro, and drill for oil, but when the next earthquake is coming we really don't know. We can splice the genome apart and together again, but even the best-cared-for pregnancies often miscarry, and no doctor can explain it. We can attack HIV, but we certainly cannot conquer it.

In the face of the wonders created around us, we ought not to stifle our own creativity. But let us never forget the limits of our knowledge. Knowing that there is a God, a power higher than our best intelligence, reminds us to be humble with our creations.

The cows who survive long enough to produce the wonder-milk may have any number of health defects - we simply do not know what we have done to them when we spliced their genes. But for that matter, we choose not to know a lot about animals, as long as they do what we want them. We purposefully ignore the details of their gastrointestinal systems, feeding cattle on corn because it's cheap, and because given the right amount of antibiotics they'll survive anyhow. We know how to manipulate animals to our desires, but we truly do not know, with God's masterful knowledge, what it is that makes them healthy.
God is painted, in Job, as a caring and skillful creator. God is the one who DOES know when a wild deer crouches to give birth, and what a raven needs to eat, how to bring forth grass on the earth, and where the stars travel.

God is the one who truly knows. Let us not be satisfied with the kind of knowledge that gets results, well enough - but let us seek for the true wisdom that God can impart to us through intimate and compassionate ways of living with creation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sermon: I once was found, but now am lost

Sermon preached 4/3 at Montclair Presbyterian. The texts are Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41. The John passage was read as a monologue. It's the story of a blind man receiving his sight.

This story is not easy. For one, it’s a miracle story, and we who are so well-educated often have an alarm system set up for miracle stories. Someone we know could be telling a perfectly reasonable story, and we’re listening and nodding, but the moment they seem to suggest that something unseen intervened, the bells tend to go off. MAGIC ALERT! SUPERSTITION AHEAD! EXIT CONVERSATION IMMEDIATELY!

The problem with miracle stories is that if we believe they are literally true, they change the way we view the world. If the world is a place where blindness can be healed by spit and dirt and water, then why is Lisa still blind? If we could heal ourselves simply by praying and believing, then why would I have to spend 5 months on crutches? The miracle stories don’t always fit into our understanding of how the world works.
Some people would say I’m throwing out a dangerous amount of bathwater here, but I will say that in the case of this story, the point is not “miracles happen.” In Jesus’ time, people didn’t question that miracles could happen. The question was whether or not Jesus could perform one. The gospel writer spends only two little verses telling how the healing actually happened. No fireworks around it. The miracle was not the point. The lessons of the story can be found instead in the conversations about the healing.

One useful lesson we can all learn from these conversations is that it’s hard to argue with someone who believes he’s experienced a miracle. This man is interrogated time and time again, but he won’t change his mind. I was blind – and now I see. That’s his story, he’s sticking to it, and we shouldn’t deny him the right to tell his story. Many of us probably have friends with unbelievable stories which are very important to them. This bible story might not convince you that their miracles are real, but at least let it show you that it’s futile to argue about another person’s subjective experience.

At the very beginning of the story, Jesus is tempted to enter into that kind of argument – arguing about another person’s life. His disciples ask a very tricky question. Whose fault is it that God is punishing this man with blindness? If it was his own fault, was he sinning already, before he was born? The disciples tempt Jesus to treat the man like an object, a question, a puzzle to be solved. Show off your brains, Jesus, explain it!

Jesus rejects their invitation to this intellectual performance. He says no – there’s a man here, not a puzzle, and his blindness is just one way in which we can learn about God. The disciples have challenged Jesus to take a seat on the high throne of judgment, but instead he kneels in the dirt to take care of a blind man – an alleged sinner. Jesus was always doing things like that, and people always had a hard time understanding why.

From then on, Jesus disappears from the story for a while, and we have two counter stories. The one is the blind man’s story – coming from darkness into light. He not only receives his sight, but also gains confidence in who Jesus is. He becomes more and more sure, as the story goes along. He begins to speak freely.
On the other hand we have the Jews and their representatives the Pharisees. Their story is the exact opposite. They become more and more close-minded, more and more hostile as the story progresses, until finally Jesus calls THEM blind.

As I said to the children, when Jesus came close to people, they changed. What I didn’t say with them is that apparently not all of them changed for the better. Some of them had their eyes opened and things were good, and some of them shut their eyes as tight as possible and tried to make Jesus go away. When Jesus came close to them, they changed – but not all for the better.

Jesus spoke of this in terms of light and darkness. He said he was the light of the world. He said that he came into the world so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.
That isn’t easy to stomach either! The first half is great – healing – light – yes. The second half is like a dark and ominous shadow creeping over us. Those who see will become blind.
The problem is that it seems very dualist. There’s a sharp dichotomy between light-dark. Good-bad. Acceptable and unacceptable. Where are our precious shades of grey? We know from hard experience that black/white dichotomies lead to extremism in religion and politics, intolerance in communities, and misery in our own thoughts and minds. It is important to us that we can think in relative terms, rather than absolutes.

Here at first glance Jesus doesn’t seem to be helping our cause. He’s separating people into two camps. And we all probably have, at least somewhere in back of our mind, a scary picture of Jesus as a big cosmic judge. He has a desk in the clouds, with an “in” box and an “out,” full of happy souls and tormented ones. Michaelangelo painted it well. Jesus is seen as the last absolute – where there are no more shades of grey. This is not a helpful picture for most of us. But it is the picture that is painted in a lot of Christian history as well as in the book of Revelation.

Revelation says that it is authored by John. The gospel of John actually doesn’t say it’s authored by John, but that is the tradition that developed around it. Both the revelation to John and the gospel of John were probably not written by anyone named John. That’s our first mistake, but a rather harmless one. It doesn’t really matter what his name was. But there is a particularly bad mistake, that many have made, to think that these two books could have been written by the same person. In fact, they were probably written in contrast to one another. (C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p 210). They can be seen as two sides of a great debate. The question is whether or not Jesus is a judge.

In the Revelation we find (20:11-15) Jesus on a throne, holding the book of life, with people’s names written in it, and everyone whose name isn’t written there gets kindly tossed into a lake of fire. Classic.
In the gospel of John, we hear Jesus say “I did not come to condemn the world” (3:17) and even “I judge no one.” (8:15). That’s very different. And we see that side of Jesus in this story. He won’t stand in judgment over the blind man. He refuses.

So the gospel of John gives us a glimpse at a less judgmental Jesus. He did not take the throne of judgment – but still, we see people getting separated. The blind would see, and those who saw would become blind. Something about Jesus caused people to either embrace his message, or to try to stone him – very few people fell in-between. When Jesus came close to people, they changed – in one direction or another.

We know how to speak about the one who was lost and is now found – the man who was blind, but now can see. What can we say for the one who thought she was found, and now finds herself lost, or for the pharisee who could see, but now is blind?

It can be important to get a little lost – on the way to getting found. We know this from experience. A good relationship often needs a good argument, to shake things up and clear the air. Sometimes we need to get a little lost in order to get really found.
But it looks like the Pharisees are getting more than a little bit lost. They’re not just taking a pleasant stroll through the green pastures and the valley of the shadow of death and back again. No, they’re headed straight for that valley, and not looking back. They are bound and determined to reject everything Jesus stands for.

Unfortunately many of us can resonate with that part of the story. A lot of us know what it’s like to slip down into depression, or anger, or despair. Sometimes we are brought into the light, and we shrink back because it’s so bright. Maybe we reject something that we think is too good to be true. Sometimes we just head toward the valley of the shadow of death because it’s easier to roll downhill. And as we roll, our hearts get harder, and meaner, and mainly more miserable.

In this story, there are very few shades of grey. Whatever might be grey at the beginning has been distinguished into bright light and dark shadow by the end of the story. You’re either skipping up the hillside of light with the blind man, or you’re heading down to the dark valley with the Pharisees.
But if the good news were only good to the children of light, it wouldn’t be truly good. If God’s welcome table only seated those who are happy and joyous and free, it wouldn’t be much of a welcome.
And we believe that Jesus preached good news that was – truly – good.

“God so loved the world that she gave her only son.” Familiar words, in a way. Hear them again after I tell you a bit about that word – the world. In the gospel of John “world” is a very dark thing. It is opposed to God. The world is God’s enemy. Hear the verse again. God loved the god-hating world so much that he gave his only son. God so loved her enemies, that she sent them her child.
The Pharisees seem to be Jesus’ enemies. But it is for them, too, that Jesus came. The light does not shine in order to pick out the bright things and throw away the darkness. The light shines so that what is dark may become light. The first scripture we heard today, the mystical passage from Ephesians, says that “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (we can shelve our objections to the science here, because we’re not reading the Bible to learn physics). Anyway, the way the writer uses “light” is to say that whenever light is present, the darkness is driven out. Anything that is uncovered ceases to be a secret. .. If this entire sanctuary were completely darkened, and then one candle was lit, it would not be dark. Everything that the light touches is transformed into light – it shines in the darkness and thus the darkness is gone.

No matter who you are – a lifelong friend of God, or a sworn enemy – the light of God is for you. It shines on your brightness, and on your shadows, and it is far more powerful than even your darkest secrets.

No matter who you are, this table of welcome is for you. Seated at it you will find prisoners, and sex workers, and Pharisees, and Republicans, and Democrats, and the beautiful, the foolish, and the insane. No matter how dark the path that you’re walking, this table of welcome is for you.

No matter who you are, Jesus is the one who steps away from the throne, and comes and kneels at your feet, offering healing, and light, and whatever he can give of his very own self, for your benefit.

The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness HAS NOT overcome it.