Sermon: What is Confirmation?

The 2019 Confirmation Class/New Members

On Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019, the First Congregational Church in Salem, New Hampshire celebrated Confirmation and welcomed a new member to the church. During the church service the Confirmands each read a Statement of Faith that they had written.  I did not preach a traditional sermon but used this text as an explanation of what the service of Confirmation is all about.

I think sometimes, we do things in the Church because we have always done them, but we are not really sure why we do them or what they mean. I used to serve a congregation that began some 80 years before I arrived, and the members of the congregation did not speak English. By the time I came, English was the predominant language although they still sang a few hymns on occasion in their mother tongue of Romanian. They did not know what they were singing, but, they learned these hymns as children, and they had a comfort about them. I recall printing the English translation in the bulletin, and they were amazed at what they were singing.

Today we celebrate not only the Feast of Pentecost or the birthday of the Church, but we rejoice in the fact that these folks gathered here have decided to make a public declaration of their faith through Confirmation or church membership. But what does Confirmation mean?

Last week I met with the Confirmands and told them that Confirmation was their choice, not another’s choice for them. I’m sorry to say that the decision to be confirmed lies solely with the person being confirmed. We do not ask to be confirmed because our older siblings were confirmed or because it is what is expected of us when we reach a certain age.

Confirmation is the affirmation of the promises made for these folks at their baptism. We heard the promises again during the service; do you renounce the powers of evil, do toy profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, do you promise to be God’s disciple, follow the way of savior, be a faithful member of the Church, love and show justice, witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ. Do you promise to grow in the faith, celebrate Christ’s presence, and furthering the mission of the Church in the world. All of these questions are serious and should not be agreed to because someone else wants you to.

In Confirmation, you accept and make a public declaration that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. You give yourself wholeheartedly to God and seek to know God’s will for your life. You have promised to follow the way that Christ has left for us and that you will let the Holy Spirit guide you in all you do. When you were brought for baptism promises were made on your behalf, and today you have made those promises stronger, and God has made a firmer and stronger claim on you.

You have also become a member of this particular congregation, and after the service, you will sign your name to the book that people have been signing since the founding of this Church in the 1700s. You have promised to participate in the life and mission of this congregation and to share regularly in the worship life of the congregation. We can chat later about what “regularly” means but publically stating that this is your spiritual home, at least for now, has to mean something we want you and we need you.

As Reformed Christians, we believe that “while you have confirmed your baptismal vows, God, on God’s part, through the laying on of the hands of the minister, claims and accepts you as God’s own, renews the covenant with you, and assures you of present and future needful grace. Confirmation, the laying on of hands, is God’s act of love to you.” (Heidelberg Catechism)

Many people have walked with you along this journey. They have taught you, prayed for you, and will continue to do so throughout your life. This is no small matter or simple ceremony that we have participated in today. “Now you will be on record before God, your family, your friends, and the members of this congregation that you mean to follow Christ, that you are answering the call to you with an audible yes, that you mean henceforth, as far as you are able, to trust in God, to care for others, to care for yourself, and to seek the realm of God.” (My Confirmation, A Guide for Confirmation Instruction)

Today is not the end of your Christian education; it is just the beginning. My prayer for you this day is that you keep these promises you made today ever in the forefront of your mind and that you will always seek after God’s will for your life. Amen.

Onchu’s Story

On Thursday, June 6, 2019, my wife and I took our fur baby Onchu to the Willard Veterinary Clinic in Quincy, Massachusetts, where we said our final goodbye. He was a sweet little guy that brought us a tremendous amount of joy and happiness, and he will be missed greatly. This is his story.

February 20, 2008

Onchu came into my life on February 20, 2008. I was living in Southbridge, Massachusetts at the time and had been looking for a canine companion for a few weeks. I did my research on breeds and had decided. I had checked out the website of a local pet store, I did not know about rescue animals at the time, and I had picked one out. I arrived at the store and went to the room where all of the puppies were, and this little black and tan dog kept coming over to me. He was not the one I was there to buy or was I.

I had initially set my sights on a little Rat Terroir, and that was who I was there to see, but while I was trying to decide someone else decided to bring him home. The little black and tan dog was in the corner looking at me and wagging his small stump of a tail. I motioned for him to come over and he did, and well, the rest is history.

He hated me for this!

So a little about his name. In Gaelic, Onchu means “Mighty Dog.” You see, Miniature Pinchers are the only ones who do not know they are a small dog. They will get in another dog’s face regardless of their size and usually, with some exceptions, the bigger dog will back down. There is also a Saint Onchu listed on the Martyrology of Ireland with a feast day of December 6, the day after Onchu was born. So that is how he got his name.

It had been many years since I had a puppy and, in the beginning, it was a difficult training period although he caught on rather quickly that he needed to go to the door when he needed to go out. He loved to walk and was pretty good on the leash. He also loved to run around the large property where we were living at the time and just generally liked to be outside. At night he would burrow under the blankets, and if you did not have a blanket, he would bark until you put one on the sofa with you so he could burrow under it. He would sit with me no matter where I was or what I was doing. In the breed description it says that Min Pins love to be with their people, and Onchu was no exception to that rule, he loved to be with me.

He loved the truck

Thankfully he traveled well in the car, and we would take road trips together camping and to a couple of family reunions. I had a little seat for him that was elevated so he could look out the window and park at everything going by. We were like a country music song and man, his truck, and his dog.

I experienced some pretty dark days in my life, and Onchu was my constant companion. He could sense when I was having a bad day, and he would snuggle with me as I dealt with whatever it was. Looking back, I can say that, at the time, he was my only true friend. Others were scheming against me, but I would come home, and all he wanted was for me to sit with him and pet him. He forced me outside for walks, which helped clear my head, and he would always remind me of unconditional love. I am not sure I would be here today if it were not him during those days.

One of his favorite spots

He moved back to Quincy with me, and he loved my folk’s house. They have a rather large, fenced in back yard and we installed a pet door, so he could come and go. Onchu would stand in the window in the living room, and if some, like his arch enemy the squirrel came by, he would bark at him and then run through the kitchen and out the door to the back yard thinking he was going to catch him. He never did. This would go on for hours, and he never seemed to tire of it.

One day we noticed that Onchu was walking a little strange like he was drunk, so we took him to the Vet. He had blown a disk in his back and was going to lose the use of his front legs. I was amazed at the technology, MRI, Cat Scans, and a neurologist that specializes in Dogs. We were facing a rather expensive surgery, but they wanted to try medication first. Thankfully, he responded very well to the drugs, and he regained some use of his legs. He needed therapy and time to heal, so he was confined to his crate unless he had to eat or go outside. No running or jumping and in time, the swelling would go down. In the end, he regained about 80% use of his legs, and things were looking up.

The Ring Bearer

On June 17, 2017, I was married, and Onchu was, of course, the ring bearer for the wedding. We had a little kilt made for him, and we wore the ring pillow on his back. He stole the show when he found something on the ground to roll around in.

That January, Onchu started with the drunk walk again, and by the end of the month, he could no longer walk. We took him back to the Vet to try the steroids again, but it did not work. I found out about acupuncture and made an appointment. Several treatments and no real improvement, he was going to be paralyzed.

Who you looking at?

We made the decision to find a wheelchair for him so he could still get around. Other than his paralysis, he was a healthy dog. I am not sure he ever really liked that chair, but he did get around in it although with a little difficulty. But he continued to get worse, losing all muscle tone in his legs and a considerable amount of weight. He would get anxious when I left the house and would cry and whine the entire time I was gone. Because of his inability to get outside, he started to wear diapers, things were not looking good, but we soldiered on.

There came a time when I had to decide am I keeping Onchu around for him or for me. What was his quality of life like, sure he had us and a rather good life being waited on but, he stared at the same four walls all day every day and was not able to run and play like he used to. As with anything else, everyone has an opinion, and I talked to a lot of people, but we finally decided that it was time.

The Vet was, and she reassured us that we did all we could have done, in fact, she told us that we did more than most people would have, and that made me feel good. Onchu was with me during the darkest hours of my life, and I was with him when he took his last breath. He was lying in my arms, and he passed in peace. I like to think of him running around in the grass just full of life.

Pets come into our life lives for such a short period. They bring us joy, happiness, and unconditional love. They are there for us when we need them and are our constant companions. I will miss him, and there is a hole in my heart that will take a long time to fill but, I am happy knowing that I provided a good life for him and that he is at peace.

Thanks, little man.

FDR’S D-Day Prayer

On the night of June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt went on national radio to address the nation for the first time about the Normandy invasion. His speech took the form of a prayer. 

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. 

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. 

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. 

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. 

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. 

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. 

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.”

Praying for the President

This past week, Franklin Graham called on his followers to pray for President Trump and for protection against his enemies.  It’s nice that Mr. Graham has called on people to pray for the president and also to ask for prayers for his protection, I am a little sad that he has just discovered that presidents need prayers.  I searched his Twitter feed and other writings, and I find no mention of a call for prayer during the presidency of President Obama. I guess we are only to pray for presidents that we like and agree with.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

1 Peter 2:17  – Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Since I began public ministry in 2004, I have, on most Sundays, prayed for the president and all of our leaders. Sometimes it has been by name, but more often than not, I pray in general for our leaders. We are commanded by scripture, like the verses I quoted above, to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not.

So yes Mr. Graham I did pray for the president on Sunday:

“You judge the people with equity and guide the nations of the earth. Give to all leaders and people the gift of wisdom and the spirit of peace, that we may walk by your light as we serve the common good. Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”

Feasting on the Word, Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1

Sermon: Breaking Chains

John 17:2-20

I have no doubt that what Jesus intended was for his followers to be united in thought and united in faith. I am also almost certain that unit of practice really did not matter much and that faith, at least from what I understand from this passage, is more important. Now, that is not to say that practice is not, but the uniformity of that practice is not necessary.

Let me make this point abundantly clear, none of this matters. No church or cathedral matters. No bible, no prayer book, and certainly no theology book matters. Robes, stoles, communion plates, gold crosses, hymn books, none of it matters if we stand counter the message of Jesus Christ, I’m not even saying the message of the Gospel, I’m saying, and please quote me correctly, if we ignore the plain and simple message of Jesus Christ then all of this is wasted. If we are not changing lives, beginning with our own, if we are not caring for the “least of these,” then none of this matters.

I’m not sure how many of you have heard of Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order and is a modern-day mystic. In many, if not all of his writings, Fr. Richard makes the bold statement that what the world needs are more mystics and fewer theologians. Rohr would say that we have taken much of the mystery out of our faith and no longer look at things in a mystical sort of way. We want proof, we desire facts about situations where there is no proof, and there are no facts.

Did Jesus turn water into wine? Did Jesus heal the blind people? Did Jesus make the lame walk, the blind see, and the mute able to speak? Did Jesus walk on water and calm the storms? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What I do not and what I do care about are the people behind every one of those stories. We focus on the tangible, and we lose sight of the mystical.

As many, if not all of you know, I began my seminary training in a Roman Catholic seminary in Boston. Like many of you, I grew up in the Church of Rome, and I owe a lot to the Church of Rome. I learned to pray, and I learned to serve in those formative years, and I believe that my spirit awoke and that is what has lead me here to this moment. You see, I think nothing happens by accident. But apart from the theological training was the practical training which focused on what goes where and what one should wear for which ceremony and how one should hold one’s hands. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in ritual, and I think ritual is essential in our lives and when we perform rituals they should be formal and meaningful, but how I hold my hands or whether I am wearing the right garment should not matter. What matters is the faith, what matters is what is all means.

Back to Fr. Richard for a moment, he has written a new book, I think the guy has written more than 100 books in his lifetime, so It is hard to keep up. But his latest work is called, The Universal Christ, how a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for, and believe. In the book Rohr challenges all of us to go deeper into our faith, to push past the headlines and soundbites and to really go down deep and see what is sacred in each person and in everything. Rohr speaks of reshaping the incarnation of Jesus Christ past the Nativity, past the Resurrection and asks us to look at the first Incarnation of Jesus Christ as creation itself. God has revealed God’s self in all of creation; we just need to look for it.

This is a fantastic book. I have had this book for about three weeks, maybe four, and I am only on page 37! When I read, I sit with a highlighter to remember passages. At one point, I think I had every word on every page highlighted. Just when you think you cannot learn anymore, a book like this comes along. Anyway, it’s a great book, and I suggest you pick up a copy, but only if you want to be challenged!

One of the critical ideas that come across in the book is that our aim is off, we have lost focus of what is essential. Rohr says this:

“Too often, we have substituted the messenger for the message. As a result, we spent a great deal of time worshiping the messenger and trying to get other people to do the same. Too often, this obsession became a pious substitute for actually following what he taught – and he did ask us several times to follow him, and never once to worship him.”

We worship Jesus because it’s easy. We worship the person of Jesus, we talk about a personal relationship with Jesus, we invite Jesus into our hearts. None of which Jesus ever asked us to do. Nowhere in anything Jesus said or did ever pointed to himself. When Jesus prayed, he prayed that God works through him for God’s glory, not his own. Jesus commands us to love God, not love Him, believe in him sure but never does he even hint that we should love him. Jesus said to his disciples, “follow me.” Jesus is not physically here with us, so we cannot follow the person of Jesus. But he did leave us his way, and that is what we should focus on.

I agree with Rohr, we have substituted the messenger for the message. We focus far too much energy on the person of Jesus whilst losing the message of Jesus. We love Jesus, we invite Jesus into our hearts, but we hate creation, we hate the incarnational aspect of Jesus in other people. The message requires that we love God and therefore love creation. We should be inviting others into our hearts, not just Jesus! Oh, if you invite Jesus into your hearts, that means you are asking him to change you not just sit around and do nothing. Jesus did more than offer thoughts and prayers, just got up off of his, hindquarters, and did something. When the leapers approached him, when the blind man came, when they brought the man who could not walk to him on his pallet and lowered him through the roof, Jesus did not wave his hand and offer thoughts and prayers, he actually did something!

In a few moments, we will symbolically gather around the table that has been prepared. Much care has gone into the preparation of what you see before you. I prefer the elements to be laid out a certain way, and so I come up and tinker with them after they have been placed. Words will be spoken, elements will be passed, we will consume what is presented to us. After that, biologically, those elements will break down and enter our system and literally become part of us and give us nourishment. But none of that matters if we do not allow this simple ritual to change us.

Back when the church was “one,” whatever that means, the ancients taught that before you take communion, you should make things right with those you have harmed or those you hold something against. In fact, they would say, leave the church, go and make things right, and then come back and take communion. And we could go outside right now, set up a card table, place these elements on paper plates and a plastic jug and it would still be communion. Ritual is important, ritual is sacred, what we are about to do is holy, but if we do not allow it to change us, it is worthless.

I said at the start that I believe that Jesus wants us to have unity of belief, Jesus prayed that we would be united in God just as Jesus is united in God. A few weeks ago we heard Jesus tell those around him how the world would know that we were united, what was that way?  I will give you a hint, it’s not by the buildings we use, it was not by the ritual we recited, it was not even unity in theology, it was love. Love truly is the answer for everything.

Wisdom Wednesday

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without also knowing the One who made us, and we cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of us. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize it in the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From this fullness (pleorma) we have all received, grace upon grace” (1:16), or “grace responding to grace grace-fully” might somehow start with grace, and then it is grace all the way through. Or as others have simply put it, “How you get there is where you arrive.”

From The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr

For the Fallen

BY LAURENCE BINYON

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Source: The London Times (1914)

Wisdom Wednesday

Remember, light is not so much what you directly see as that by which you see everything else. This is why in John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ makes the almost boastful statement “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus Christ is the amalgam of matter and spirit put together in one place, so we ourselves can put it together in all places, and enjoy things in their fullness. It can even enable us to see as God sees, if that is not expecting too much.
Richard Rohr: The Universal Christ

Sermon: Imagine

I genuinely believe that love is central to Christian identity. Love is central to the Gospel, and love is the beginning, middle, and ending of human existence. In the end, love is the only thing that matters. I have spent the better part of my adult life reading and studying scripture and theology I can tell you that if we strip away all of the pronouncements by church councils and theologians all that remains is love. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (NIV)

In Today’s Gospel from John, Jesus tells those with him, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV) Let’s pick apart this verse a little.

“A new command I give you.” I always like to begin with definitions, so there is a clear understanding of what is being spoken of. Command; an authoritative order. The disciples believe Jesus is their teacher, their rabbi this is a position of authority. “The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22, NIV) “because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:29, NIV) So Jesus is the authority, and he is giving them a new command.

Jesus is giving them a command; he is not making a suggestion. He is making this a command so they have an understanding of the importance of what he is saying and how central to everything that he has done, or will do in the future, love is.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)

All of the law and all of the prophets hang on this. Love is the fulfillment of the entirety of the law and all of the prophetic words of the prophets that came before Jesus. That is it, love!

Love is a complex emotion that has so many meanings it would be impossible to give it the treatment it deserves so, for now, we will move to pass the actual word love and towards something else.

Jesus tells them to “Love one another. As I have loved you” so to truly understand we have to look at how Jesus has loved them. There is no better place to start then “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV) The outpouring of God’s love manifested itself in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God’s love for the world and those in it was so profound that God gave everything, including his son so that we might have eternal life. God sent Jesus to show us the way so we would stop wandering in the darkness. God sent his light into the world to light the path of righteousness. This is how much God loves us.

Jesus love for his disciples and those he ministered too was perfect and unconditional. Jesus never put obstacles in the way for someone to have to reach. He never told them that to be saved they had to follow a complex set of rules and regulations, he told them to believe. Hanging on the cross, Jesus turned to the thief and said to him that he would join him in paradise. The thief recognized Jesus for who, and what he is, he confessed and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into paradise. Jesus reassured him that he would be with him. The man was not baptized, he did not say the sinner’s prayer, he was not on his knees, and he never took communion or even attended the church he just believed. The example is that we are to love everyone without condition.

Everywhere Jesus went he healed; he fed, he preached, he reconciled, he forgave all without stopping to inquire if the people he was serving were worthy of his ministry. There was no credit check; he did not ask to see a passport or inquire about their immigration status. Jesus did not care where they had come from or how they got there he just met their needs with love. In his ministry, Jesus set no conditions on those that he would minister too, and he told the disciples the same. The only admonition he gave them was this, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14, NIV)

Notice, Jesus did not tell his disciples that if people did not listen, they were to go to the Congress and pass legislation to force them to believe. There is nowhere in that statement that tells the disciples that if the people do not believe they are to take them to court and sue them into believing. Jesus told them to present the Gospel, and if they believe great and if they do not, walk away. Apparently, people tend to ignore this passage if history is any judge.

I mentioned earlier that love is a complex emotion, and it is, but to do what Jesus has commanded us to do, we have to try and understand what love is. There is no better definition of Christian love than what St. Paul has to say about it in his First Letter to the Corinthians; I quoted part of it already. It comes from the 13th Chapter and is considered the “Wedding Reading:”

“Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; NIV)

Love does not keep people out love finds a way to invite people in. Love does not force one segment of the population to follow one set of rules while allowing another to follow a different set of rules. Love does not hold things over other’s heads, and love certainly does not use people for what they can get out of them. Love does not keep a tally sheet or good and evil. Love does not make fun of others or rejoice when others make fun of them. Love always tells the truth, no matter how harsh that truth might be. Love honors vows and honors all people. Love always protects especially those who are vulnerable or marginalized. Love always hopes and brings hope to others. And in the end, love never fails.

I gave this sermon the title “Imagine” because I wanted us to be able to imagine a world where love is the first and the last, where love and what is good for everyone is how we deal with situations in all of our doings. Imagine if love was the shining example in the laws we passed and the candidates we voted for. Imagine if love was the guiding principle in church affairs, and we did what was right rather than just what we wanted or because we have always done it that way. Imagine if we loved enough that we listened when someone we disagree entirely with speaks and that we love humanity enough that we seek to find solutions to problems that do not including destroying each other verbally or with bombs. Imagine loving so much that we allow people to decide for themselves what is best for them in their situation and their families, even if we disagree and we do not try and pass legislation that takes that choice away. Imagine if we loved each other and those we do not even know the way Jesus loved, without condition. Imagine what the world would be like if we just loved a little more starting with loving ourselves.

“But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13, NIV)

Prayer of St. Brendan

Lord, I will trust You,
Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me faith to leave the old ways and break fresh ground with you.

Christ of the mysteries,
Can I trust You to be stronger than each storm in me?
Do I still yearn for Your glory to lighten me?

I will show others the care You’ve given me.
I will determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust.
I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life.

I believe You will make a way for me and provide for me, if only I trust You and obey.
I will trust in the darkness and know that my times are still in Your hand.
I will believe You for my future, chapter by chapter, until the story is written.

Focus my mind and my heart upon You, my attention always on You without alteration.
Strengthen me with Your blessing and appoint to me the task.
Teach me to live with eternity in view.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven.
Feed me, and, somehow, make my obedience count for You.