Sunday, June 23, 2019

Living Among the Tombs

Luke 8:26-39 
Jesus had been teaching in his “home” territory of Galilee. It is in this region, throughout the gospels, Jesus spends most of his time teaching and preaching. But then he does something strange, he gets in a boat and heads across the sea into Gentile territory. The scriptures never tell us why, we do not know what Jesus was thinking, or what his intentions were when he crossed the sea. In fact we do not even know what he intended to do, because once he got there he is detained before he gets anywhere and is asked to leave before he can even move much past the shores of the sea.
While he is crossing the chaotic waters of the sea, a storm arises. The sea swells, the wind kicks up, and the waves overwhelm the small boat. As the storm rages on all those who are in the boat begin to fear they are in danger. And just when all is lost, Jesus’ speaks and the wind, and the waves to cease. He speaks the storm out of existence. Jesus has power over the storm and the sea. And all those in the boat now know he has authority over the powers of all chaos, and destruction, which is what the sea would have represented to all those who bore witness to Jesus’ actions that day.
As soon as he gets out of the boat, a man intersects his path, basically blocking his way. The man is naked and is clearly not in his right mind. We are told that he had been living among the tombs; that he was possessed by a myriad of demons and is so unsafe that the people of the town have kept him chained and is being constantly monitored by guards.  This man is living outside the community. He is cut off from friends; he is cut off from family; he is cut off from himself. He is imprisoned both mentally and physically. He is not to be trusted and must be kept constantly under surveillance and chained least he do something to disturb or disrupt the community.
This man inhabits the grave, he is among the tombs. He is a Zombie; not quite living and not quite dead. He is one of the living-yet dead; one of the dead yet still alive. He lives yet he is walking among the dead. He is living in death.
If there was ever a symbol of oppression, enslavement, and dentation; of someone who is cast out, unwanted, or sent away, in this gospel this man is it. This man is all of these, he is oppressed inside and out. He is enslaved to the demons within and is chained by those around him. He lives under guard. Nobody wants him near him, he is not allowed within the walls and he is cast away. He might as well be dead, and in fact the dead are the only ones who will allow him to live among them, because, being dead and all, they have no say. 
 The man calls out to Jesus, naming him as the son of the Most High God. That is the demon sees Jesus for who he truly is. Jesus is not merely a rabbi, not simply a good teacher, he is more, so much more. He is the son of the one and only living God who stood on the watery chaos before all time and spoke the universe into existence at the dawn of all things. Jesus just proved he can speak a storm out of existence and then suddenly this man, this demon, declares he is the one who spoke all things in to existence. All those on the boat just bore witness to the authority Jesus has over the powers of chaos and destruction and then here comes one who declares Jesus is the one through whom all things were spoken into existence. Even the demons, in gentile territory know who Jesus is and the power and authority with which he comes.
Jesus asks the demon his name and they declare themselves to be many. Calling themselves “legion,” which is a unit of measuring the amassed enemy forces of Rome. They are not only declaring their numbers but they are declaring that they see themselves as a force standing in opposition. In case there is any confusion as to their goal and their purpose here, they present themselves as enemies of Jesus, as well as the man whom they inhabit.
Jesus commands them to leave and they set to bargaining. “Do not send us into the abyss,” they say. The word they use is interesting it is not only the word used for the place of the dead, Sheol, the pit of the old testament writings, but it is the word used to describe the chaotic waters of pre-creation; the chaotic forces of “the watery deep” over which the Spirit of God hovers before the beginning of all things. It is also the very word used just a few paragraphs before to describe the wind and waters of the sea which have just obeyed Jesus. So the demons ask to not be thrown into the “the deep,” the waters (which obey even Jesus) and ask to instead be allowed to go into this nearby herd of pigs. Which they promptly use to, now get this, throw themselves into the sea.
Jesus has control over the waters, has control over the demons, can allow them to go where he chooses, and in the end has control over where they end up. Jesus ultimately has authority over all things. All that frightens, all that destroys, all that sets itself against him, all that declares itself to be an enemy him and those who follow him or come to him for wholeness and healing, Jesus has authority over it all. There is nothing with more power; nothing over which Jesus cannot exercise control or over which he does not have authority. Jesus has it all under control . . . literally.
So now enter the swineherds; they saw what happened and are none too happy about it. Jesus in the very act of setting this man free of all that bound and enslaved him, has ruined their economics. Jesus has disturbed the status quo, and “GDP” of that region. In Jesus’ economy, bringing one person to wholeness and healing, setting the captive free, restoring a person to community and allowing them to live into who they were created to be, is more important than the “bottom line” every time.
These swineherds, don’t see things quite the same way. Jesus has disrupted their lives and their way of life and this makes them afraid. Their power and their privilege is being threatened and they must sound the alarm. They go into the city and the country to let everyone know what kind of funny business is happening down by the lake near the tombs. They return with a crowd, armed with torches and pitch forks, not really but they come with the same intent, that is to drive out this man who is threatening their way of life, who sees the freedom of this one man as more valuable than the economics of the region. They intend to send him away. (As if they have the power or authority to do that to one who has power over the forces of chaos and creation.)
When they arrive, they find Jesus teaching and the man has been set free of his demons. He has been cleansed and made whole. He has been restored to sanity, restored to himself. For the first time, perhaps in his whole life he is truly alive. He is clothed, in his right mind and he is sitting at Jesus feet. That is his is sitting in the place of a disciple, listening and learning.
When we first see this man he is a symbol of oppression, enslavement, detention, of all who are outcasts, tossed away, treated with fear, and abandoned in our society, he is now a symbol of redemption and holiness. He has found wholeness and healing, community and acceptance. He is free. He is has been released to be himself. And best of all he is sitting at Jesus’ feet the place of one who is willing and ready to learn, of one who is a disciple. His life has been transformed, turned upside down, no turned right side up, by Jesus and by sitting as a disciple, he is committing to be one who will learn from the one who can do this for him. This is what holiness looks like people, this is what we Nazarenes want for people, for ourselves and for everyone who lives in our world; wholeness, healing, restoration, redemption, complete abandonment of all that once was and a deep commitment to the things of Jesus and all he stands for – holiness, of heart and life.
The swineherds and all who returned with them see this, and as if watching Jesus cast a legion of demons into a herd of pigs and then seeing that herd of pigs throw themselves off a cliff into the sea was not scary enough, apparently seeing a once raging lunatic, in his right mind, unshackled from all that once bound him, set free from all that enslaved him, sitting peacefully in his right mind, listening and learning from the Jewish rabbi from across the lake, is the most frightening thing they have seen all day. And they insist that Jesus leave immediately. Jesus, not being one to stay someplace he is not wanted gets in his boat to sails back across the sea.
The man begs to go with him, to continue to listen, to continue to learn. Jesus is the one who set him free, this is the one who made him whole, who restored his life, who rescued him and saved him from literal demons, he wants to go where ever Jesus goes. He will follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. He will follow Jesus along any path down which Jesus might go. He will even go across the very abyss that just swallowed up the demons who have been tormenting him, if that is where Jesus was going.
But instead of allowing this man to follow him, Jesus sends him away. Sends him back into his town, back to his community, back to all the people who knew him as the naked, lunatic who lived among the tombs, who needed to be watched and guarded, who needed to be chained and kept track of lest he bring his chaos into their lives. Jesus sends this man back to his friends and his family, to live among them. To show them what it means to be restored, to be made whole, to be saved by Jesus. Jesus sends him into his community to tell them what Jesus had done, to be a living reminder, a living proclamation, a living witness to the way which Jesus could change lives, to the healing which Jesus could bring, to the restoration Jesus offers.
In this passage Jesus stands against the forces of death and chaos. Jesus shows us that he can bring restoration and wholeness. Jesus declares his authority over all the powers of darkness and oppression in this world, pushes back all the enslaves, and all that is an enemy to light and love, to wholeness and healing, to freedom and restoration. In this passage Jesus stands for all that is right and good, stands for freedom and against oppression, Jesus pulls close those who are marginalized, who society pushes away, to all those who are told to keep out, to stay away, you are dangerous, to all who are chained and imprisoned, who are forced to live lives of surveillance and guarded least they bring their chaos into our mundane lives.
The swineherds and the crowds, stand against all this. They are upset because Jesus commits this radical act of moving to restore this man to wholeness and community, to give him his life back and free him from slavery. Jesus has messed with their economics. They are fixated on the money and loss of income which has occurred because Jesus reclaimed this man’s personhood and his dignity. They would rather ask Jesus to leave than to allow Jesus’ radical inclusion to infect the rest of their community or the rest of their world.
When this man is faced with his own healing and the restoration of his own life, his first reaction to draw as close to Jesus as possible. To sit in Jesus’ holy presence as long as possible, to go where Jesus goes and be where ever Jesus is. And he is allowed to sit, learn, and to draw close but he is then send out, send back to his home, back to his community back to his neighborhood. He is sent out to bear witness to share the goodness he has gained with those around him. To bring wholeness, to bring love, to bring freedom and restoration to all the places he goes.
One of the hardest ideas for us to grasp a hold of as Chrstians is that holiness contaminates the brokenness of the world around us by bringing wholeness and healing where ever it goes, not the other way around. Too long Christians have held themselves apart lest the world around us infects us. But we come offering healing, we come standing for justice, we come shouting that the slaves are set free, that those who are sent away are embraced, that those who are cast away are invited in. We are here to unchain the captive, to bring freedom to the imprisoned. We are here to speak of the radical love of Jesus, who dares to love the naked, the chained, the imprisoned, the enslaved, the outcast, the foreigner, widow, the orphan and all those who are forgotten, ignored, and abandoned in the world around us. The brokenness of the world does not infect us. We are the contagion that spreads through the world infect it with wholeness and healing of Jesus Christ.
Jesus frees this naked, lunatic who lives among the tombs and gives him a place at his feet among his disciples. He brings the one who is cast out close. Jesus give him a place when he had not place. He then sends this man out to bear witness, to share with his friends and his neighbors what Jesus had done. No one is outside the love of Jesus.
We are called to bear witness to all Jesus has done, to declare what Jesus declares to go back to our cities, out towns, into our neighborhoods, sharing the radical love of Jesus with those who we meet by loving everyone, by showing the radical inclusive love we experienced in Jesus with anyone, with everyone one we meet.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Comfort of the Trinity

John 16:12-15
As the daughter of an army officer, saying, “Goodbye.” Is something I know how to do. Before I was 12 years old I lived in eight different houses, five different states, and one other country. And have added three more states, and six more houses to that list since I have become an adult. As of three years ago, every day I live in the parsonage, is the longest I have ever lived in one place.
One of my very early memories is from when I was four years old. I remember leaving the apartment in Germany, the first place I remember living, and being taken to some friend’s house. It was my last night. That night when we went to bed, I said, ”Goodbye,” to the first of many friends I would remember saying, “Good bye,” to throughout the course of my lifetime. We gave hugs and said our, “good byes.” And my four year old brain tried to grasp what it meant to never see somebody again. Forever ,was beyond me, but the permanence of these final moments in Germany were etched in my young mind and the poignancy of them are not lost on my adult self. I would say my farewells again in Oklahoma when we left for North Carolina, then again when we move off of the army base. They would be said again when we left North Carolina, then again when we left the first house we lived in, in Maryland. I said then, said, “Good bye,” to many people and to my whole childhood when I left to come up here to Quincy, for college. And when I left for NTS, I was leaving all my friends once again. And it continued to happen when I graduated from Seminary and I took my first Church in Kansas and then again when I came here 10 years ago.
In the pre-social media, pre-email, pre-everyday internet world, when getting on the “World Wide Web” took a special disc and involved what can only be described as irritatingly grating sounds of the 80s and early 90s, of my childhood, “Goodbye,” was pretty much forever.
To say I know how to say, “Goodbye,” is an understatement. It was such a reality in our lives growing up that the first time we lived somewhere for more than four years, my mother started getting restless and ill content and it took her a while to realize that her mind and her body did not remember how to stay put. It took her while to settle down and realize where they were in Maryland to stay and it would actually really and truly be home. Learning how to stay was probably as hard for us, as learning how to say, “Good bye” is for other people.
This passage, which we have before us this morning, is a part of Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples. Jesus is saying, “Good bye,” to his disciples and preparing them for his death and his ultimate departure from this earth. As Jesus is speaking, I can imagine the disciples sitting there shifting uncomfortably. Passing nervous sideways glances at on another across the table, “What is he getting at?” “What does he mean?” “Is he saying what I think he is saying?” “Did he just say he is leaving us?”
As the speech moves on, you can see the disciples shifting from foot to foot and becoming noticeably distressed. Jesus clearly telling them that he is leaving them. He is going away, never to return. What is going on?
This speech would probably have made them all feel more than a little uncomfortable. And would give them reason to worry, and make them a little bit anxious. What does it mean to be a disciple of an absentee teacher? How can they continue to be disciples without anyone to disciple them? What will the future hold? What is the way forward?
When I think about my Dad, I think about all the, “Goodbyes” we said over the years, when I went to college, when I went to Seminary, every time I came to visit and left, every time he visited and then left. He would give me a big hug, kiss me on the check and say, “Love ya.” Every time, but that last time, but I know if he could have he would have given each us big hug, a kiss on the cheek and one last, “Love ya.”  Goodbye. This is Jesus’ hug, and kiss on the cheek–to his disciples. His last and final “Love ya.”
In this farewell speech, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the Triune God. Jesus explains, just as all that the Father has, belongs to Jesus, Jesus has all that is Fathers, and the Spirit will declare all that has not yet been revealed to them when the time comes. The Spirit will be their comforter and their advocate and their teacher, sharing all that belongs to the Father and declaring the things to come about Jesus.
Jesus tells us that he has much to say, but it cannot all be said here and now, some things must be said later, when they can be heard and understood. And this later task will be left to the Spirit and the Spirit can do this because the Spirit knows what Jesus has to say. The Spirit will declare to them what the Spirit hears from Jesus. The Spirit will declare the things that are to come, will share the things Jesus has yet to say, but cannot say here and now. They will not be left hanging, forever not knowing. The Spirit will tell them what they need to know and in doing so will join them in glorifying Jesus.
Jesus is saying, Good bye, but he was not just saying Good bye, peace, and then just leaving his disciples. He is letting them know that he is leaving but not leaving them alone. He tries to explain what is about to happen and prepare them to go on in his absence. And Since Jesus is a part of the Triune Godhead, Jesus can do something no other person before him or sense has been able to do, that is leave completely, but not really be gone.
Following the resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven but the Spirit remained. One member of the Triune God left, but another stayed behind, so although Jesus left the disciples, he did not leave them alone. It is this going away but remaining as the Spirit, which Jesus is explaining in this passage. Jesus wants to comfort his disciples by assuring them before he leaves, that although he is leaving, they will not be alone. They will not have to sort this out on by themselves. They will not be left to their own devices. The very Spirit of God which spoke out of the Burning bush, lead the Israelites through the desert, and comforted Elijah in the silence, would come to them.
We live in a scary world. It seems we cannot go more than a month or two with a school shooting, or a house of worship being bombed or some other tragically terrifying event happening in the world around us. In fact we live in a society which capitalizes on our fear. Car alarms, home security systems, schools holding active shooter drills, there are guards at the elementary schools and whole states where the general populace is so afraid that they enact conceal and carry laws.
And least we here in Cambridge, come to believe that this is a secular mindset and something that does not affect we Christians, I was recently speaking with a pastor friend at district assembly and she was telling me that she recently found out that nearly a quarter of her congregation carry guns into worship each Sunday. We are afraid, afraid to let our children play in our neighborhoods, afraid to walk at night, afraid of what cold possibly happen should we let our guard down. We live continually trying to figure out what unexpected atrocity we might need to come to expect next.
When Jesus looked at his disciples that evening, he did not just looked those there in the room, but the eyes of our savior looks down to through the centuries and looks at us and says, You are not alone. Be comforted, I am not leaving you alone. I have not left you alone.  In a world where loss, anxiety, and fear are great there is no shortage of those in our midst who are in need of reassurance, the kind of reassurance Jesus gives his disciples here.
Jesus lives continually in community. The Godhead, the very Triune nature of God assures that Jesus is never alone. And Jesus speaking from this place of belonging, and communal security, tell us that he has come to earth, walked with and has in all ways experienced the aloneness which comes from being human and so he assures us he does not leave alone. We are not alone.
Jesus is not alone because the Father, Son and Spirit are one, three together forever participating in the relationship we call the Trinity. And as a part of this Triune nature, Jesus assures us although Jesus is no longer with us, God is not leaving us, God will remain, the Spirit will walk with us, guide us direct us, comfort and lead us.
Jesus looks at us, Jesus sees we are frightened, anxious and lonely and he reaches out to us in his final hour lets us know that we are not alone, we are never alone. The Spirit is with us, guiding us, leading us and saying all the things to us Jesus would say to us, if he were here, because in reality through the Spirit’s presence, Jesus is here. God is here.   
Here in this world, that seems so far from God and all things that are “godly”, God is here. 2,000 year ago, Jesus may have returned to the Father, but God did not leave this earth, the Spirit remained, leading, guiding, teaching, and joining us in worship of God. We are not alone. God is here, always here with us, forever with us.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pentecost: The Miracle of the Church: Acts 2:1-21

The Resurrection is the heart of our belief. The Resurrection defines the primary belief of the Church. We are Christians because Christ rose from the dead. It is the single most important event in all history. Then 50 days later is Pentecost. Pentecost is the day which gives definition to the Church. The Church is who the Church is BECAUSE of Pentecost. The events which occurred on the Day of Pentecost, following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, are the events, which put into motion the very existence of the Church today. It is true that we are not the Church without the Resurrection, but it is also true that we are not the Church without Pentecost.
Pentecost was a Jewish feast. One of the seven major feast of the Jewish year. So when the scripture says, “When the day of Pentecost came. . .”  It is not saying, “When the day which would later be called Pentecost came. . .” It was Pentecost, when the events we as Christian have come to associate with Pentecost occurred.
Pentecost was a day the disciples would have known and would have celebrated. Pentecost takes place 50 days after Passover, which means that the events of Pentecost occurred 50 days after the Resurrection. It was a harvest festival, also known as the Feast of Weeks. The events we have come to associate with Pentecost are not what the day of Pentecost was originally about, but because they occurred on this well-known Jewish holy day, we call the events that occurred that day, ‘The Pentecost’. So on the seventh Sunday after Easter; we celebrate the Christian holy day of Pentecost.
Before Jesus ascended, he promised to return, which is what we celebrated and remembered last week on ascension Sunday, but he also made another promise. Jesus also promised that he would send the Spirit to us. In John’s gospel we are promised that the Spirit will be our advocate, but elsewhere we are told the Spirit is sent to guide and to give us the power needed to carry on God’s work here on Earth.
The day of Pentecost marks the day that the Church became the Church. Not only is it the day that the Spirit fills believers for the first time; but the events of this day result in the first post-resurrection converts to Christianity. This is the first time the disciples go out and share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people who had not previously followed Jesus while he was here on earth. The Church really truly becomes the Church when it is reaching out to the world around it and drawing others in.
The book of Act is a written record of the beginnings of the Church. Throughout the Easter Season we have looked at several of the beginnings found in Acts. The beginnings of the disciples going out beyond Jerusalem to share the truth of Jesus and the resurrection, the first Gentile Christians, the first Gentile Christian community, the first movements of the gospel into Europe which is representative of the Gospel moving beyond the Mediterranean and truly moving into all the world. But of all these beginnings, which are recorded throughout the book of Acts, begin with one event, which occurs on the day of Pentecost. This is the beginning of all the other beginnings we have studied these past few weeks.
Right before he ascended into Heaven, Jesus, tells the disciples to go to Jerusalem and to wait for him there. So they went to Jerusalem and waited. Waiting is not easy but sometimes we are called to wait. But they did not just wait. They did not just sit around and do nothing. Act tells us, following the Ascension; they went immediately to Jerusalem and devoted themselves to prayer. They waited and they prayed. But not only did they pray, but they also did the things they needed to do to make sure that they would have leaders among them. They elected from amongst themselves someone who would serve as an apostle in Judas’ stead.  They came together, prayed, waited and prepared themselves to be ready to receive the power Jesus promised. They did not sit around idle wondering when God would come. They did what they knew to do, while they waited. They prayed and prepared themselves, so they were ready when the Spirit came upon them. So when the day of Pentecost came when the Holy Spirit would give them, they were ready to receive the power Jesus had promised.
As they were gathered that day, they were waiting and they were praying and the wind came, and the tongues of fire alighted on them, they burst out of that room and flowed into the streets. And then a miracle occurred among them and through them. They were able to speak languages they did not know and people heard them speak in languages they were not speaking and everyone no matter what language they spoke or where they were from was able to hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that day.
Once they were ready, once they had prayed, once they had prepared themselves, the spirit came and every last one of them, who had been doing all these things, went out from that room. They came busting out from that room; they flooded into the streets and shared about Jesus.
They all went into the streets and shared the truth of the gospel, not just Peter; not just Peter, James and John; not just the 12; all of them, all 120 of them left that room, poured into the streets and began to share the love of Jesus Christ with the people who were there. All 120 of them, men and woman, everyone. Not just the ones who were good as speaking (and come on Peter never showed any speaking skills prior to this day). Not just the ones who were trained, not just the ones who were good at it, not just the ones who were “gifted” at evangelism, not just the extroverts, not just the young ones, not just the mature ones, not just . . . name a stipulation . . . not just those. All of them went into the streets and spoke to all who would hear.
And because they were praying, because they were ready, because they were prepared, when the spirit came, all of them went out, because all of them were filled, all of them were empowered, every last one of them. This was not a miracle for just one or two; just for the leaders, just for the best or the brightest, or the most spiritual, this was a miracle that came up on all of them.
Sometimes it is easier to think about God using a special person, a person who in themselves has somehow managed to harness the true power God can give, a prayer warrior, a deeply spiritual saint of the Church, a very pious priest, you know Mother Theresa, but this was not a miracle for Peter, or John or James, or Martha, or Mary, or Johanna, but it was a miracle for Peter and John, James and Martha and Mary and Johanna; for all of them. The Spirit came up each of them, everyone one of them. Each one was empowered so that the whole could be empowered. God came upon each one, and God came upon THEM, the whole of them, gave them the Holy Spirit. This was a miracle that came upon each of them AND this was a miracle that came up the group of them. God empowered the Church. They were gathered faithfully, they were worshiping and celebrating a festival God had called for God’s people to celebrate, they were praying, they were ready, they were prepared and the power of the Spirit came up THEM. This was a miracle for the whole Church, not part of it, all of it, not particular pieces of it, but entirety of it, the whole. God promises to empower not just individuals, not just special people, but the Church, all those who gather.
This means the Spirit empowers each of us; this means the Spirit empowers all of us, this means Spirit empowers US (together). We are the Church. I am not the church; you are not the church, at least not on our own. We are the Church together, the Spirit falls on the body of believers, all together, and it is together the real work of God happens in this world.
I have heard people tell me that, “I’m a Christian, I just don’t go to Church.” It is popular thinking to believe that you can be a lone Christian. You can believe in God. You can pray. You can do good things. But that you do not need to be a part of the gathered body of Christ, you don’t need to actually “go to” Church or be a part of a “church.” It is popular to believe that you go at this Christian thing alone. The fact of the matter is you cannot. There is no such thing as a rogue Christian, out there trekking through the world alone just you and Jesus against the world. God calls us to the Church, to be a body made of many members, made of all the different parts that it takes to be a body. God intends for us to function together. And this is most clearly and distinctly seen on the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, we do not talk about John receiving the Spirit. We do not talk about the power James received. We do not celebrate how Peter was able to single handedly was able to speak and 3,000 people were added to their number that day because of what Peter did.
We celebrate what happen in and through the Church, the gathered body of Christ, the believers. We celebrate how the Spirit came up the Church. We do not celebrate a miracle performed by a disciple or even a small group of them.  We celebrate because the Spirit came upon the body of believers gathered in that room there in Jerusalem.
We celebrate the forming of the Church. People call Pentecost the birthday of the Church, because it was on Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the gathered believers and they became the Church. When we celebrate Pentecost, we are celebrating that God called the Church into existence. We are celebrating that we are empowered to come together to do the work and the will of Christ in this world. We are celebrating that God does not call us to do this alone. We celebrating that we are called together. We are called to gather, we are called to worship, we are called to pray, we are called to prepare ourselves and do what we know to do to make ourselves ready because it is when we are together that God empowers us, all of us. Not just the best among us, not just the greatest among us, but all of us. That means none of us is left out. That means that we are in this together. God empowers all of us. God has called all of us; God has called us to work together, to live this Christian life together. God has empowered us to BE the Church; to work together, to do the work and the will of Christ in this world. Let us come together, let us be the people God is calling us to be, let us be the people God is empowering us to be together! Let the Holy Spirit come upon US!