Living in Faith

Sermon Reflection from Sunday, August 11 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood

On this ninth Sunday after Pentecost Mo. Mary blessed us with a powerful message on the requirements and blessings of living into our faith in God.  She opened with a story of a man on the street running past a church and shouting “I am Jesus”.  When a member of the congregation reported to the pastor that Jesus was coming, he replied “look busy”!  In the remainder of her sermon Mo. Mary explained why we are called to much more than looking busy in the eyes of our Creator.

Our faith is more than meaningless offerings, useless celebrations, and pointless rituals.  In the lesson from Isaiah, God speaks to the rulers and people of Sodom and Gomorrah telling them that they have blood on their hands and he is not interested in their burnt offerings, blood offerings, new moons, festivals, and incense.  He can no longer endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.  Instead, God says they are to wash themselves clean and cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.  If they obey God’s will, he promises the scarlet stains of their sin will become pure as snow.

In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus says “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Mo. Mary reminds us that our heart clings to that which we value – our treasure comes first, then our hearts follow. Just as in the Isaiah passage where God exhorts the people to do good, seek justice and help those in need, our works of faith lead us to a deeper awareness of the people and circumstances we desire to improve.  If we love feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless, we become more aware, sensitive, and better equipped to ease the suffering of those we wish to help.

As written in the lesson from Hebrews, faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.  What does God want us to hope for?  Love, eternal life, mercy, forgiveness, healing, kindness, hospitality, salvation, justice and the peace of God are some of the things Mo. Mary shared as being on God’s list, and there are more.  Our call to faith and works does not promise an easy path, as no more dramatically displayed than Jesus’ life on earth.  His treasure was to love, teach, and give his life to reconcile us to the Father.  His heart followed him to the cross.

Our kingdom work is not without reward.  In the Isaiah lesson, God says “if you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.”  In Hebrews Jesus tells us God has prepared a city for the faithful.  In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says to not be afraid because it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  As faithful Christians, we have the hope of the greatest gift of all – eternal life in paradise with our Creator God.  What more could we want?

It’s All About Relationship!

Sermon Summary for July 28, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Brenda Worley

 In the lesson from Genesis Abraham discusses with God the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  God threatens to destroy all for their sinful ways.  Abraham “negotiates” with the Lord about how many righteous it would take for the Lord to change his decision about the destruction.  Abraham asks the Lord repeatedly to consider forgiving the people in the cities if 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10 righteous souls were found.  The Lord patiently agrees each time.   Abraham’s conversation (prayer) with the Lord teaches us that God wants a relationship with us…a real one, based upon our truth and God’s truth.

Mother Mary asked “How did you learn to pray?” She shared that her parents taught her to pray at the dinner table: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” From this prayer she learned that everything is from God and that, in giving thanks, we learn to put these things to respectful use.  This is demonstrated most clearly as we share Jesus’ body and blood at the Eucharist.

The necessity for prayer is based on God’s desire for us.  He pursues us!  He wants an intimate relationship with us.  He is personal, cares for us, and wants to commune with us through prayer. 

In Luke 11 Jesus teaches us to pray saying, “Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.”  In this prayer which we stand in community and pray every Sunday, we ask for God’s presence, food, mercy, forgiveness and guidance.  Jesus then uses the examples of a good neighbor or a loving parent who answers the needs of those in relationship with them…the neighbor due to persistence of the one seeking help and the parent due to love for the child.  Our Father exceeds these two examples through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is not that God can’t work without our prayers, but that he has established prayer as part of his plan for accomplishing his will in this world.  A life of prayer means that nothing is done without God.  God is impacted by our desire to be in relationship with him.  That relationship gives him joy.  His response to our shameless praying restores dignity so even when we do not feel worthy to speak, we should not stop praying.  Sometimes no words are needed…just listen.  Be in constant dialogue with the Father.  Be in a relationship that calls you to constantly and shamelessly go to him in prayer.  He will answer!

Hospitality… Entertaining Angels

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, July 21, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Brenda Worley

The first reading of the day was the story from Genesis 18 in which Abraham is approached by three strangers by the oaks of Mamre.  Abraham welcomed the strangers with open arms, greeting them warmly and feeding them.  As they leave one of them declared that Sarah was to bear a son even though she was barren.  It became obvious that the strangers were sent by the Lord. 

 There are many scriptures calling us to be hospitable and a few are highlighted as follows.  

In Romans we are called to "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13).  In Leviticus the Lord instructs as follows…“ ‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ ” ( Leviticus 19:33 – 34)  And in Hebrews we are called to be hospitable as we… “Continue in brotherly love.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13: 1 – 2)

 Hospitality was essential in this time as there were no restaurants, hotels or convenience stores.  Abraham, Lot and Job all showed hospitality to strangers without complaining and thereby entertained angels unawares. 

 Hospitality is essential in our time as well.  Our Red Door Food Pantry is a prime example of hospitality.  Those who come are hungry for food, but we do encounter people in our everyday lives as well as in our church family who are hungry and in need of food of a different kind.  That is why we stress that everyone is welcome.

 There is certainly need of hospitality in our world.  Globally, it is reported that there are 70.8 million refugees who have sought comfort and safety in other countries.  Over half of these are children under the age of 18.  They flee famine, war, and oppression in hopes of a better life.     

 Previously we were called to care for strangers in the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this week’s gospel reading from Luke we learn of Jesus entering the home of Martha and Mary.  He received hospitality in many forms.  Mary sat at his feet and listened to all that he said.  Martha busied herself with meal preparation.  This work without the assistance of her sister brought her to the point of distraction and some bitterness.  When she shared her feelings with Jesus in hopes that he would instruct Mary to help her, he said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.”  (Luke 10; 41 – 42)

 Hospitality is how we show our love of God.  From this scripture we learn that hospitality is not all about serving nourishment in the form of physical food.  Sometimes we are to nourish others with our listening, learning and compassion.  We are all in need of love shown in a variety of ways.  Neither Martha nor Mary were “right.”  We are called to nourish ourselves like Mary, but also to go and serve as Martha.  We must open our hearts and minds to learn and grow closer to God, but also share that love with others so they can see what love can do.  After all, they may be an angel.  You never know!     

Called to Act 

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, July 14, 2019 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

On this Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, we were blessed to have much to ponder and celebrate among our amazing family of Christ at Ascension.  Prior to the service we heard Fr. Frank Baltz deliver a summary of the results of our congregational assessment survey recently undertaken to help determine strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and opportunities in our mission and ministries. We were pleased to hear Fr. Frank opine that we hit a “grand slam home run” with the results.  We had superior participation with extremely positive results.  In short we are a vibrant, happy, and optimistic place overall while always having room for further reflection as to how we can grow and serve the kingdom more and more.

The Gospel for the day was the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is a rich lesson in which Jesus calls us to act with mercy and grace toward those in need whom God puts in our path regardless of their personal circumstances.  It is the very embodiment of the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.  A man who is beaten, robbed and left by the roadside is ignored by a priest and a Levite passing by before a Samaritan, the half-Jew, half-Gentile outcasts shunned by the religious establishment leadership, came to his aid to assist and save him. Jesus ends the parable by confirming the Samaritan as the one who loved his neighbor and says to us to “go and do likewise”, a direct commandment to act in faith.

Mo. Mary’s message recognized the many neighborly acts of faith she has witnessed and personally experienced in our church family.  She expressed her deep gratitude for the works so many do in so many ways.  In order for the faithful to respond to need, we the aspiring good neighbors must see the need. This is why our Bishop Wright has identified that the church is political (see the need and identify a way to meet the need) without being partisan. Mo. Mary gave an example of the outstanding work of our Food Pantry as one of the many ways the Ascension family follows that tradition. We meet a desperate need in our community in a significant way without regard to the characteristics or circumstances of those who come to us. She reminded us of the beautiful life to which God calls us – to see need, respond to need, and receive help with our own needs when necessary.  All of us have needs at times, and it is good for us to recognize and acknowledge them.  It is difficult to recognize and respond to the needs of others if we are unable to see our own.  It is a holy circle of the stewardship of our lives to give, receive, and grow as we minister to our parish family members and those in our community.

As we see in our survey results, we are a blessed community of followers of Christ. We embody God’s call to act in faith with joy and hope for our future.  We must be wary of and resist falling into complacency, something I cannot imagine happening among our grand legion of Christian soldiers.  Let us continue to do those works of the kingdom and to grow in love and service as we are called to do.

Trinity Sunday: God the Trinity

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, June 16, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Brenda Worley

Father’s Day in the secular world, this Sunday was Trinity Sunday for the Church.  On this first Sunday after Pentecost we remember the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier. The One in three and three in One!

The concept of the Trinity is a complicated one.  Many have tried to explain it using such analogies as water that has three forms…ice, liquid, and steam.  This analogy falls short in that the three forms are not present at the same time.  The Trinity is not to be understood except through faith.  God must be encountered and held in relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This does not happen through the mind, but through the heart.

The Trinity is most often referred to using the masculine forms of father and son. For some people, people who have been damaged and abused by a fatherly (sometimes motherly—and in today’s reading from Proverbs wisdom of God is referred to in the feminine. ) figure, this is difficult and becomes a stumbling block for their spiritual growth.   As much as one might accept and respect these pastoral concerns, however, we don’t want to miss how we might be drawn into the mystery of God as noted by the prophets and sages of old or even a 14th century German Mystic. Meister Eckhart describes the Trinity as follows:

“Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.  In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.  The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.  The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.”

God delights in us and we are called to delight in him.  God desires joy, new life and a full life for us.  We are born for and of relationship and are drawn into the “three-in-one” dance. 

In honor of Father’s Day, Mother Mary shared two stories reported by a young woman as examples of godly love that inform us of how we are called to love.  First, the custom of the woman’s  father sitting with her on the porch and sharing a Popsicle during thunderstorms.  He taught her not to fear the storms.  The second was the story of how her father would react when she hurt herself and was crying.  For example, she might stub her toe on the bedpost and her father would come to comfort her.  He would speak to the bedpost, “How dare you hurt my little girl!” and then begin kicking it and collapse in the floor in mock pain.  She would giggle and completely forget her own pain. 

Such is the godly love that is life changing and can bring comfort and joy to everyone who encounters it.  God the Trinity sustains us even in fear and suffering. God is always with us.  We are called to share our own stories of faith with others.  Stories of fathers (or mothers) who have shared the love of God with us and brought us to a relationship with the three.  Or is it the One!

Unity in Holiness

Sermon Reflection from Sunday, June 2, 2019 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

On this Seventh Sunday of Easter, the celebration day of the Feast of the Ascension, Mo. Mary had much to unpack in her message.  The appointed readings were from the formal Ascension Feast Day, Thursday, May 30, as approved by Bishop Wright. Our Parish family’s kickoff gala of the 175th anniversary of the founding of our church was held on Thursday night with many of the parish family and some local dignitaries in attendance. 

The event included a proclamation by Mayor Santini, who acknowledged the invaluable contribution of Ascension as a “crown jewel”. During the service Mo. Mary also celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of Joe and Kathi White with the rite of a Renewal of Vows.  With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Mo. Mary joyfully commended the five decades of pure bliss of Joe and Kathi’s holy union, comparing it to that of Steve and hers.  After the appreciative laughter subsided, she acknowledged the ups and downs of a holy marriage and the inevitable growth and change that two individuals experience in many years of holy union under the blessings and guidance of our Heavenly Father.

While Mo. Mary opted for the Ascension Day scripture readings for the Sunday service, she also summarized some of the text from the Gospel reading from John 17 assigned to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Jesus said,

As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” 

These beautiful words of love and unity remind us of who we are and to whom we belong. Through the sacrament of holy matrimony, God transforms two individuals to a new life to love, cherish, nourish and grow with one another in holy union. 

Mo. Mary reminded us that other sacraments of the church such as Holy Eucharist, Baptism, and Confirmation also mark this transition, empowering us to enter a new life of being and of loving as we are called to do.  For 175 years, the Church of the Ascension has participated in these holy sacraments as the body of Christ in the world, changing and empowering countless lives in the ministries of the Kingdom.

Jesus walked the earth in a particular place and time to teach us about the kingdom of heaven and reconcile us to God.  His ascension to the Father allows him to reign over all from on high and abide with his beloved children.  He is in us and we are in him, the holy union of our existence.  Thanks be to God!

Those Who Love Me

Sermon Summary for Sunday, May 26, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Brenda Worley

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”  John 14: 23-24

The above was the answer Jesus gave when asked why he was not going to reveal himself to the world.  Jesus makes it clear that rejecting him is rejecting the Father.  His ministry is not a scheme devised by him, but a ministry to bring us to the Father.  The thought of Jesus and the Father making a home in our hearts should bring us peace and give us courage to testify to others.    

When visited by a friend in the hospital, W.C. Fields was found thumbing through the Bible.  When questioned why he replied that he was looking for loopholes.   Instead of accepting the peace and courage offered by the Father and Son, he was looking for a way to dismiss it all and declare that this whole Jesus thing a fraud.

We have all met people who do the same.  We are all guilty of it at some point or another.  Looking for loopholes causes us to miss out on a life of peace that knows no understanding.  When the hard times come, as they always do, there is nothing to ground us and give us courage to persevere.  Looking for loopholes is like “not seeing the forest for the trees.”  We look so hard for understanding that we miss the mystery of it all.

Our relationship with the Trinity calls us to live out the Five Marks of Mission as expressed by the Anglican Church.  They are as follows:

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
To respond to human need by loving service.
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

In explanation, former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori noted that mission is about receiving love and then responding by going out and sharing. “It is a matter of calling the near and the far off together into the fold. It is about healing and reconciling. It is about making that love incarnate in the lives of people around us and in the lives of people on the other end of the earth.”

However, living into these Five Marks of Mission can cause us trouble.  Two examples follow.

·         Marilyn Webb, now an acclaimed journalist, author, and professor, was denied her Ph.D. in 1966 because she would not do “favors” for two of the professors on her committee for approving her doctorate.  In the light of the #metoo movement, she recently voiced this event.  The courage to do this and the strength to preserve led to her finally receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago at the age of 76.

·         Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor during the 1940’s, was put in a concentration camp because he criticized and worked against the Nazi regime.  All through his imprisonment to the point of his execution he never lost faith in his God.  Just before he was hanged in April of 1945 he wrote a letter and poem to his mother and witnessed that God had never left him.  The poem can be found at following link.

 https://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/february2012p3.htm

The grief that can befall us when we fail to live out these marks of mission is evidenced in the 2014 water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  In order to save money, the water source for the city was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River.  Failure to treat the water from this new source with corrosion inhibitors caused the aged water pipes of the city to leach lead into the water.  The water source has been changed back but the long reaching effects of the lead polluted water are still a great concern.

We will miss God’s love if we look for loopholes.  He never asks us to do things and then abandons us.  He is with us through it all.  The homily ended with a prayer in which our Father was asked to help us “face each day with confidence to produce light for your people.”

Known by our Love

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, May 19, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood.

 On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we were blessed to have Fr. Louis Tonsmiere celebrate the Eucharist and give us a powerful sermon on Christian identity and responsibility found in the Gospel lesson for the day.  The reading was from John 13 and tells of Jesus’ last supper with his closest friends and confidantes on his final night on earth as God incarnate.  Fr. Louis’ message was one characterized by the power of love and how Jesus exhorts us to live into the true meaning of the two greatest commandments to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as ourselves.  It is how we will be known in the world as followers of our Savior Christ.

 Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this – that a person lay down his life for his friends.”  As Fr. Louis told us, these teachings of Jesus are sometimes known as his “hard sayings”, and described them as “heavy” demands, that is, those responsibilities as Christians that are weighty, rigorous, and difficult for us to accomplish. He went on to say that Jesus reminds us there is a cost to love – to be willing to give of yourself and your resources without conditions or limits, even to the point of sacrificing your life as He did for us. I am reminded of quotes from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  He said “ultimately the source of love is God himself, the source of all our lives.  As it is written in an old medieval poem, ‘where true love is found, God himself is there’. There is power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There is power in love to show us the way to live.”

 Fr. Louis continued by naming several examples of Christ’s “hard sayings” on the true meaning of living into the love of God:

·         Telling the parable of the Good Samaritan who gave of his time and money to help a Jewish man who had been beaten and robbed on a roadway and left to die after a number of his own people passed by and ignored him. The Samaritans were generally ostracized by the religious elite of the time but the Good Samaritan showed the love of God without hesitation.

·         “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the children of your Father in heaven.”

·         “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

·         After washing the disciples’ feet at the last supper Jesus told them, “for I have given you an example, that you should do, as I have done for you.”

 Fr. Louis’ message reminds us of the path we are to follow in life – that in receiving, acknowledging, and sharing the love of God in spite of the self-serving pressures and attacks of the secular world, and in spite of the sacrifice and rigor of loving others as we love ourselves, we are called to love like Jesus.  In this way, the world will know that we are truly His children.

Living into Our Priesthood

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, April 28 Respectfully Submitted by Brenda Worley

What a glorious day!  Bishop Paul Lambert was with us and served as preacher and presider.  He is a dynamic figure with a great sense of humor.  We all enjoyed his visit very much. 

Bishop Lambert lovingly confirmed, received, and reaffirmed seven candidates during the service.   Charlotte McClung was confirmed; Floyd Braid, Riley Borgia, and Laura (Sis) Eastland were received; and Alvin Blount, Donna Marie Newton, and Erle Newton, II were reaffirmed.  We are thrilled be a part of this step in these candidates’ Christian journey. 

The focus of Bishop Lambert’s sermon was the responsibility of all baptized Christians to be priests (the priesthood of all believers).  Jesus freed us through his death and resurrection and made us a kingdom.  A priest is ordained to go to God on behalf of man and go to man on behalf of God.  When baptized we are accepted into the priesthood.  At that point we are asked to die to ourselves and live through Christ.  That baptism charges us with a moral responsibility to function as priests.  That priesthood has a three-fold definition.  We are called to say prayers, read scriptures, and share the story of the Resurrection of Christ.

Bishop Lambert warned us that that our prayers must not be an effort to get God to see things our way.  God is not interested in our opinions.  As stated by C.S. Lewis, “I pray because I can't help myself. ... I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.”  We must be transformed and open our minds and hearts to allow God’s power to flow through us. 

We were exhorted by the Bishop to sing, dance and shout hallelujah during the Easter season.  Don’t be depressed at the death but elated at the Resurrection.   The women who went to the tomb stepped into the darkness to find the empty tomb.  They ran with excitement to tell the others.  The men on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus because they were living in fear, but upon realizing that they had eaten with the risen Lord, ran with glee to tell the other disciples. 

As priests we must share the good news.  Don’t keep your Christian experience a secret.  Go out and proclaim it!  Shout it out…The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!      

A Father’s Love

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, March 31, 2019 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel lesson was one of Mother Mary’s self-proclaimed favorite passages, the parable of the Prodigal Son.  In Jesus’ amazing way, he tells stories of spirit and truth that lead us to seek the deeper meaning and strengthen our spiritual understanding of the Kingdom of God. As our heavenly Father tells us, our thoughts are not his thoughts nor are his ways our ways.  Jesus’ parables offer us insight into God’s ways and thoughts, requiring our study and discernment to fully grasp their meaning.

As Mother Mary told us Sunday, this parable can be called “A Father’s Love” as much as “The Prodigal Son.”  She reminded us of a print that hangs in her office of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”  She added details about Rembrandt’s personal life saying that he lived much of it similar to the son in the parable, in a situation of privilege whereby he flaunted his position and squandered money on vane pursuits for himself.  The fate that met the prodigal son also met Rembrandt, as he lost his fortune and family and lived in financial distress, grief, and disorder during much of his adulthood.  He was eventually forced to sell the rights to his artistic works to pay his debts and have money on which to live.

As we reflect on the circumstances of the prodigal son, we are invited to also view this story through the eyes of his father, who celebrated his younger son’s return with great joy and celebration.  The prodigal’s father is a reflection of our Holy Father in heaven, who tells us in the scripture that he does not want to lose a single one of his children to the temptations of the evil one.  We are told that when a sinner repents and turns to the redemptive love of our Savior Christ, there is much celebration in heaven, very similar to that in the parable.  It is one of the great truths of our spiritual lives – the love of our heavenly Creator receives all who repent and return to Him to be welcomed home in holy love and acceptance.

Another vivid truth for us is the situation with the prodigal’s older brother.  He is resentful that he has been an obedient and dutiful son all the while his brother was wasting his inheritance in sinful living. The loving father reminds the older brother that he has always been with him and that all he has is his.   Still, the older son refuses to celebrate his brother’s rebirth into the family.  His dutiful obedience was no longer the joy and freedom of serving but the resentment of enslavement.  The elder brother was lost as well.  We learn in this parable that all those who come to God for mercy and redemption will be received and celebrated.  Jesus’ story reminds us that our heavenly Father’s love is the overriding, caring power in the universe, and we are to celebrate the return of the lost just as he does.  In the meantime, we continue to live under the awesome umbrella of God’s mercy and grace the entire time the lost are being sought, called, and redeemed.

The parable of The Father’s Love reminds us once again of the two greatest commandments – we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, in the same way He loves us.  We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, even if they stray from God’s will even when they return broken in body and spirit and needing mercy and grace.  We are to welcome them with open arms and celebration that, in the lyrics of the great hymn Amazing Grace, those who once were lost have been found. Thanks be to God!