Monday, June 23, 2008

True Prophets, Honest Disciples

Scripture cited here includes Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:1b-11, and Matthew 10:24-39

That Gospel, and that passage from Jeremiah, are meant to show how demanding obedience to God can be. Perhaps they’re just the right texts for a Sunday when we send off medical missioners to the Dominican Republic. The fact that these members and friends of ours are packing their bags this week says that they’re dealing with the God who calls people to respond, to serve, and to grow.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and get in there with Jeremiah and Matthew, who know all about mission trips. Let’s start with Jeremiah.

Here’s this bright young fellow, raised in a cultured home, a talented poet whose gift at finding words and conveying meaning has been commandeered by God. “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.”

Jeremiah was the son of a priest. From childhood, he had known the influence of the great prophet Hosea. Becoming a prophet was not likely high on Jeremiah’s to-do list. Becoming a fine poet, yes. He knew how to struggle with his words, to find just the right ones. But becoming a prophet—Jeremiah knew this—meant struggling against the very word given to him to speak. “For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

Jeremiah knew that becoming a prophet meant hitting the road and leaving behind a settled life. Why? Because the obedient prophet speaks for God, rattles everybody’s cages, goes where God sends, and once there spits out the truth without cushioning the blow.

Prophets are thought of as religious figures. And if prophets stick to what’s narrowly religious, no one minds them. For instance, if they criticize idolatry, or if they preach against the kind of pride that refuses to acknowledge dependence on God, or give fine speeches on ethics, then they’re basically acceptable. Maybe people laugh at them behind their backs, but they’re treated as harmless. And the professional prophets a king might keep on his palace staff—at the White House they’re called advisors— might actually be popular, especially when they forecast rosier times ahead. Very few are doing that, these days.

Nor does Jeremiah. “For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction are coming upon this people if they do not change their ways, if this country does not denounce violence and destruction, that’s what will keep befalling us!”

The obedient prophet is the exact opposite of a politician. A politician, to make the message acceptable, avoids extreme language, steers the speech so as not to offend or lose the audience. A prophet has no filter system, lets nothing of his own get in the way of speaking the whole truth. And an obedient prophet travels real light, because once the majority of his hearers have laughed at him, there will always be a few who are ready to rub him out. “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” Even formerly close friends watch for the prophet to stumble: “Perhaps we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” So the prophet keeps moving—not running like a coward, but keeping on the move like a resistance fighter. “The LORD is with me like a dread warrior.”

And what’s at the core of the true prophet’s message? What makes it so abrasive to hear? For one thing it’s often about the economy… “Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.” The great prophets denounce every shape injustice takes, especially when the rich press their advantage against the poor, because this violates the covenant love that Israel owes to God. Translated into today’s terms, tax advantages for the wealthy, loopholes for corporations, prophets talk about these—and, for sure, the disparity between the minimum wage and the outsized pay packages of more than a few CEOs. Why? Because to prophets like Jeremiah God is equally sovereign over the life of the nation as over the interior life of the prophet, and God holds all sectors of society equally accountable to one standard of justice that makes of all citizens equal stakeholders in the covenant, equal claimants to the status of child of God.

“Then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones…” We shouldn’t be too surprised when we hear Jeremiah vent his heat and pray, “Let me see your retribution upon my persecutors.”

But that is not what we hear in Matthew’s Gospel. There, the disciple is expected to be like the teacher, and Jesus our teacher does not condone retaliation. If Jeremiah shows how demanding it is to be a prophet, Matthew helps us see that the bar is raised for Christian obedience.

I know, he does say that he comes not to bring peace, but a sword. Jeremiah has prepared us to hear that the Messiah in prophetic tradition is going to rock the boat. Creating a new heaven and new earth is going to require one heck of a lot of commotion, that we can understand.

But what’s with the sword? The Hebrew word for sword means literally “flashing”, lightning. Used as a figure of speech as Jesus does here, the sword represents judgment. Think of Jeremiah’s pent-up burning fire flashing free in his oracles of judgment against the nation. In the Letter to the Ephesians, remember that one part of the armor of God worn by Christians is “the sword of the spirit”, and in the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation the authors explain that the sword of the spirit is the Word of God.

It has a mighty sharp edge, cutting deep into families within that first-century community. The message appears to be that the hallmark of true disciples is that nothing silences their expressing the reason for the faith and hope and love they feel, nothing pulls the plug on their acknowledging what God means to them in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit that has been given them. Not even fearful family members who understandably worry that their enthusiastic children or parents or inlaws, openly showing their new allegiance, may be arrested for breaking the rules of the all-seeing empire.

It’s thought that this portion of Matthew describes what makes legitimate Christian evangelists. It was meant to instruct the first Christians how to tell the difference between authentic missioners and flashy entrepreneurs trying to create a following. The bona fide witness to the love of Christ has first been honest and consistent at home in his or her personal life, has resisted the natural desire to keep peace in the family at all costs, and has chosen to let the truth make them free.

Jeremiah shows what it takes to be a prophet. Matthew reports what it takes to be a disciple of Christ. In both, it appears to be a tough love.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t come by tough love easily. I’m in my sixties and I’m still learning it. What allows that toughness? St. Paul answers that in his letter. What’s the worse that a prophet or a disciple might fear? Death? Paul says that fear of death is what we stare down in Christ. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…. If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

That attitude towards death toughens love. Death is not alien to the purposes of God. It is not physical death that a prophet or a disciple needs to fear.

The fuller story of Jeremiah shows what is to be feared. Jeremiah did everything he could to awaken his nation, Judah, to a particular danger. That was the threat posed by the Babylonian kingdom. Superimpose a modern map on that ancient territory and you’re looking at the region of Iraq.

Jeremiah’s King, Jehoiakim, believed that nothing could bring down the Kingdom of Judah. God had blessed Judah and given her a high mission. God would never let her suffer disgrace. Jeremiah knew otherwise, that headstrong Judah was deluded by pride. Jeremiah’s oracles were brought to the King, written on a scroll, and King Jehoiakim would read a few verses then, with a penknife slice them off and toss them into the fire. He had no ear for differing points of view.

Jeremiah’s prophetic poems predicted that Babylon would invade and defeat Judah. King Jehoiakim’s advisors called Jeremiah a traitor, and the blindered King could not see or hear the truth. Inch by inch, he cut off dialogue, refused to allow honest debate.

That’s what needs to be feared: the head of state whose own head is deaf and blind to the bigger truth of what’s happening in the world, and who leads a nation to ruin by false appraisals, and refuses to consider information that doesn’t fit his own ideas or those of his advisors.

Why does the Church keep reading Jeremiah? I’ll ask you to judge that. The wise and healthy nation listens to its truest prophets.

And why should we care about tough gnarly Gospel texts like Matthew’s today? Because the Gospels equip us to test the spirits of those who present Christianity to the world. The Gospels remind us that Christian discipleship is not about having a flashy presence in the media and making a big noise at a microphone. Christian discipleship is about the desire and the discipline to be like our teacher, Jesus. Our medical missioners are about to have unique opportunities to give the same humble service of hospitality, healing, befriending, and loving that our Gospels record Jesus giving to the people around him. He does it now, and our missioners will feel the mystery of how their actions become what is needed by the power of God at work in their touch, in their trust, in their relationships with unknown people well-known because they bear the same image of God who blesses all.

“If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”* That is Jesus’s message in Matthew today.

Jeremiah would have understood that. Matthew says that’s the call of God in Christ. We need our missioners to come back and present to us fresh what happens when disciples act on that call.

* Matthew 10:39 as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message

Monday, June 16, 2008

On a Day of Ordination

The readings for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost include Genesis 18: 1-15; 21:1-7 and Romans 5:1-8 and Matthew 9:35-10:23.

What a rich set of readings for a day when someone we love will be ordained. That is Brooke Pickrell, who from the late summer of 2005 to the early summer of 2007 served as our Youth and Campus Minister, and who today at 4:00 p.m. will be ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. And some of us will be there at First United Presbyterian Church in Troy, to add our joyful amens to the good judgment of that presbytery in approving her ordination. I hear that clergy of other denominations may be invited to join in the laying-on of hands to ordain Brooke, and that will be a first for me.

Ordinations are in the air at this time of year. It’s an expected season for the Episcopal Church to ordain transitional deacons, the first of two separate ordinations that Episcopal priests experience. That happened yesterday to a former parishioner, Grace Pritchard Burson, in Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford. Grace and her husband Josh sang in our choir during their years at Williams. (Ellen Beebe represented us at Grace’s ordination yesterday.)

And some of you know that Ann Clark-Killam, a friend of St. John’s, will be ordained a pastor in the United Church of Christ in late September. At the beginning of July she’ll become Pastor of the Richmond Congregational Church.

What may feel unusual about this set of ordinations is their ecumenical character, yet in common among them is that each woman journeyed with us for a while here at St. John’s. Whatever role we may have played in their vocations, we can thank God for the privilege of having played it, for not having convinced them that seeking ordination was the last thing they ought to do, and for having given them something of us to keep with them in the future.

Thirty-five years ago tomorrow I was ordained a deacon in St. John’s Cathedral in Providence. I was raised in a suburb nearby, and the congregation of St. Mark’s in Riverside played a big role in my growing up. The ladies there laid out a generous spread of sandwiches and desserts on the afternoon of that service in Providence. I suspect that half of them might have been saying, “I always thought he’d make a good clergyman,” while the other half were wondering, “Him? Wasn’t he that chunky kid who used to sing in the junior choir?”

That was 1973. I was one of several young men ordained that day by Bishop Fred Belden, a man who every day wore red sox. He was proud to show his baseball loyalty, and I think he was the kind of man who enjoyed making it difficult for people to take him too seriously.

In 1973, the Episcopal Church ordained to the priesthood only men. Women were enrolled in Episcopal seminaries, several of my classmates among them, including Jeannette Piccard in her late 70’s, noted balloonist and first woman to enter the stratosphere. They would help break that stained-glass ceiling. And when it happened the very next year, 1974, the sound of smashing glass was heard around the Anglican Communion, in part because it happened renegade-style, eleven women strongly qualified for the office (including Jeannette Piccard) were ordained priests by several bishops who were fed up with the foot-dragging of the American Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. The bunch of them resisted resistance to change, and acted with prophetic courage.

You’ll see a photo from this event on your leaflet insert today. Notice that this bishop is no young man. He and his comrades were, I believe, retired and willing to risk their pensions in breaking with tradition—though many urged stronger retribution than that. These were bishops who in the 50’s and 60’s had helped put the L in Liberal, and were convinced that God’s justice and compassion needed to be shown, not just talked about.

If you’ll read the little essay on that insert, you’ll catch another L word, Lambeth Conference. At the end of this month, 800 or more Anglican bishops from all around the globe will gather in England for the once-every-decade conference named for Lambeth Palace, residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The two weeks they spend together will not result in legislative action, but, hopefully, in better understanding across cultures and theologies.

The Lambeth Conference of 1968 issued a statement refusing to support the ordination of women. The Lambeth Conference of 1978 showed the bishops (to quote this essay) “that the world had moved on without them. Women had already been ordained in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.” Lambeth 2008 will see the arrival of at least ten female bishops (and their husbands).

While first to be ordained in the American church, the Philadelphia Eleven weren’t first in the Anglican Communion. Florence Li Tim-Oi, resident of Hong Kong, was ordained a deaconess in 1941, just months before the fall of Hong Kong to Japan. The Bishop of Hong Kong decided that new occasions were teaching new duties, and in 1944 ordained Florence a priest. After the war ended, controversy flared over her ordination. She chose not to exercise her priesthood until the Anglican Communion acknowledged it. Her bishop nonetheless made her rector of a parish, and insisted she be called priest. After the Communists came to power in China, Florence tried to work within that system—but was eventually accused of counter-revolutionary activity and was forced to undergo political re-education, working (until 1974, when she retired) in a factory. Five years later the churches reopened, and Florence resumed public ministry. Visiting family members in Canada in 1981, she was licensed as a priest in the Dioceses of Montreal and Toronto, where she finally settled.

Enough history for one morning. How do our readings today help us imagine what will soon be given to, and expected of, Brooke?

Like Abraham, Brooke will be expected to recognize the presence of God when she sees it, even in unexpected strangers who turn out to be angels unawares. Like Abraham, she’ll know that it’s as people eat together that they come to know one another (and, while she may not get away with turning to her spouse to rustle up the meal, as Abraham did with Sarah, she will know when it’s time to encourage her people to make cakes and serve them up).

Like Sarah, she will hear some amazing proposals and may laugh at some—but unlike Sarah, she won’t be listening in from outside the tent. She’ll be inside, and she’ll be facilitating her people in dialogue and discernment as they propose to one another how to fulfill the mission God has given them.

Like St. Paul, Brooke will become more and more familiar with the mystery of faith, that it is the power that unites us to God and to one another, and is somehow made of the messy mix of suffering, endurance, character, hope, and love. Nothing like a congregation to teach you that! And to constantly reinforce the core of the mystery: that at the right time God acts, not waiting for us to get our house in perfect order, but ordering our household through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us—not primarily to the ordained by the Spirit moving in ordination, but primarily to the entire household of faith by the Spirit moving in baptism.

And like the first apostles, Brooke, you will receive the preposterous mandate to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons—and as you try to lift a finger to attempt any of this, the memory of hands laid on you this afternoon will remind you that the preposterous mandate is given to the whole Church, not you alone, or your congregation alone.

Like the first apostles, those who are ordained today are sent out as sheep, meaning that the gifts they bring are in their flesh as well as in their spirit (isn’t a sheep worth its weight in what it produces through its very being, the wool, the meat?), but are also wise enough to know when to be perfectly still and deeply observant, like a snake, and when to just coo and hang around, innocent as a dove.

As rich as these readings are for a day of ordination, I find that the collect today says, clearly and simply, what an ordained pastor does. She helps God keep holy the people of God by consistently turning and returning their common life to the steadfast faith and love of God, so that they are saved from too many lesser pursuits than proclaiming God’s truth with boldness and ministering God’s justice with compassion, the central work and joy of every baptized person.

Collect for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost

"Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are You Busy-- or Free?

(The readings referred-to here are Genesis 12:1-9, Romans 4:13-25, and Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26.)

I’m trying to picture that tax booth Matthew sat in. I’m seeing Lucy’s little makeshift booth in “Peanuts”, with her hand-lettered sign, “The Doctor is in”… The tax collector is in.

But “excluded” is what he really was, written off by his neighbors for collaborating with the imperial tax office, the folks who sucked them dry. There he sat, inside his cage, a bird kept by the emperor’s people to keep singing the song, “Pay your taxes on time!” Yet in the wider community around him, this bird did not fly.

Not until this moment we witness, when Jesus walks along and sees the man, Matthew, ands calls to him, “Follow me.”

In the iconography of early times, Matthew is represented by the ox. There he is, in the upper right quadrant of the cluster of four evangelists, painted on our altar. So let’s not call him a bird. He’s a beast of burden, and he has just swapped his burdens. From today he is yoked to the God of mercy whom he has met in Jesus of Nazareth. And he will do his part to help pull the human race out of its ditches and set them onto the road to freedom.

Who else is trapped, boxed-in, and caged in our Gospel today? A woman who has had a flow of blood for twelve years. By the laws in the Book of Leviticus, she was to be shunned by society. She couldn’t be touched, nor could she touch anyone, without spreading ritual uncleanness. That’s where there is magical thinking in her story, not her believing that she could be made well, but society’s fearing her touch.

“If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well,” she says to herself. She wasn’t the only person to believe this. At chapter 14, verse 36 in Matthew’s Gospel we find the sick residents of Gennesaret begging Jesus “that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”

St. Mark tells the story of this same woman. Some of the details are identical (she has suffered for twelve years in both versions), but Mark’s story is fuller. She has spent all that she had seeking a cure, and has endured much at the hands of many physicians, says Mark.

More interesting is how Mark describes Jesus’s experience of her touch. Both evangelists say that she came up behind him. Twelve years of being rebuffed, scolded, and recoiled from have left their mark on her. It’s what happens next that’s different in Mark.

Matthew’s Jesus turns to her, sees her, and says, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

Mark says, “Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well: go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’”

Matthew and Mark agree: this woman has nothing to fear in Jesus. Both remember that his first words to her include calling her “daughter”, for he sees and respects her dignity as a child of God, a fact forgotten and denied by her culture.

But Mark dramatizes this moment of touch. Is it because he has a great crowd surrounding Jesus, while Matthew reports that only his disciples and one or two others witnessed this healing?

Mark’s Jesus seems to speak to the crowd, for the sake of the crowd, and I am in that crowd; perhaps you are, too. As he looks around, asking who has touched him, it isn’t to imply that no one should touch him: it’s to encourage each of us to come out of his or her tight boundaries and stand before him, open to him face on.

I need to hear that. You, too?

When I’m too busy to pray, too busy to renew a friendship, so busy that I talk myself into driving a short distance I could walk and be the better for it; when I’m filling my calendar enough that I am failing to kneel in the garden or dance into a day without appointments, and when work or worries claim my attention so there’s no more attention to share with my nearest and dearest, then I am just as hemmed in as Matthew or this nameless woman.

And when I realize it, my first instinct is to reach for the fringes of my faith and sort of sneak up on Jesus, you know, touch base with him-- and then get busy again. I know I’m not alone in this… am I?

I mean, we come to church for Word and sacrament. We at least brush up against spiritual community, the Spirit herself bearing witness with our spirits that life is for more than work, life is (as we heard one recent Sunday) more than clothing and the price of gasoline. We catch good messages like this. They invite us to acknowledge the heart of faith, that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, that God’s promise rests on grace. We have heard these very words in today’s scriptures.

But from inside my cubicle, I really relate to this woman who sneaks up on Jesus and satisfies herself with the fringe.

And he invites us around to the front, for some face to face time. The way Mark puts it, this woman steps out from the crowd, and certainly out of her comfort zone, falls down before Jesus, and tells him the whole truth.

That is prayer. I cannot even brush up against the fringe of these readings today and not hear him inviting me to pray. Can you?

And my telling him the truth, a good place to start, is not where we’ll end. If I stay open, if I don’t slip back into the crowd too soon, he’ll tell me more of the whole truth than I could hear in any other way than to be still with him.

I’ll be reminded that the promise does rest on grace. That God desires mercy. But also that the God of Abraham and Sarah calls to mission those who are open to hear, which is to say that prayer may be unsettling, which may help explain human resistance to prayer.

But I need unsettling, if that is another name for the freeing that is felt wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is heard. Matthew from his booth, the woman from her illness and isolation, Abraham and Sarah from the settled boundaries of their homeland and tribe. You and me from the confines and compulsions of work or worry or whatever may be boxing us in.

And the world could use some unsettling, if that is how all the families of the earth shall be blessed by freedom. What most needs unsettling is suggested by that Genesis reading today. Israel tells the story of Abraham and Sarah as the story of Israel gaining a homeland. But there’s that pesky verse, “At that time the Canaanites were in the land.” The children of Israel and the children of those Canaanites have yet to settle boundaries in that part of our world. What most needs unsettling is the human addiction to owning without sharing.

Let’s help that along by welcoming God’s unsettling our human addiction to being busy without praying. Let’s hear the call of God to come out of our little cubicles of busy-ness, our workstations, our calendars, and our tunnel vision—for some face to face time with God. From that we will be blessed, and will be a blessing to the world.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Act with Authority

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-- and great was its fall!"
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Matthew 7:21-29

What is this authority that people sense in our Lord’s teaching? We’re told it’s unlike what we get from our scribes. I’m assuming that scribes are teachers who have an investment to protect, and whose allegiance therefore is not to God or to the people, but to the institution upon which their livelihood depends. They are retainers, hired hands who do not care, role-players who are not invested in what they teach or in whom they teach.

So let’s venture the obvious answer, that Jesus’s authority is his honest care for the truth, for God, and for the people. He shows this care in the very illustration he uses today: a wise man who builds his house upon rock, and a foolish man who builds his house on sand.

He makes it easy for his hearers to care along with him, to care for the truth and for God and for themselves: Who among us does not care for the house in which he or she lives? As we hear over and again in this cloudy season in the housing market, one’s home is often one’s primary asset. More personally, it is also a sanctuary of renewal for repeated return to the world and its demands.

He uses a similar image at another famous moment in his teaching, when he reaches for language to speak of eternal life: “In my father’s house are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”

You recall that he introduces that promise with the invitation, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

On the basis of his teaching today, we might hear him adding to his invitation “Believe in God, believe in me” a third bidding, “Believe in your own power to choose, to trust, and to act.”

More specifically, he says “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man…” What words of his does he mean?

That’s the biblical call to examine the context. Too often, we settle for hearing snippets of the Bible taken out of context. If more scripture were read within its context, fewer theological and ecclesiastical houses would be built upon sand, more upon rock.

So backspace from chapter 7:21-29 in Matthew’s Gospel and you have in chapters 5, 6, and early 7 the Sermon on the Mount, the quintessential message of Jesus. Among the words of Jesus we’re invited to act on are these:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

“When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good…”

What is this authority that Jesus shows in his teaching? Heaven knows, it isn’t the authority of logic or of custom. It is that he cares about each of us and all of us, pushing “us” to embrace all the globe, and by that love invites us to care for self and neighbor and community as one cares for his or her own home. This house he wants us to build on rock, our own house that he cares to help us get in order, is the network of trust that constantly builds and repairs relationship, the knowing and loving that Jesus finds missing when we pour our effort into pious public show—“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?”—but do not care to know and love and trust, do not take the risk of acting today as if we belong to the kingdom of heaven and have the authority of Jesus, for we do.