Being Thankful means being Content

thanksgiving

I used this picture on Facebook to advertise for the annual Thanksgiving Day Eucharist at my parish, Saint Paul’s in Foley, Alabama.  As I posted it, I wrote these [admittedly snarky] words, “Join us as we give God thanks and praise at 10am before you go stuff yourself silly and then “save” all sorts of money buying things you don’t need thanks to advertising and tryptophan induced sleep deprivation.”  I deleted most of it before posting a safe invitation on Facebook, but two days later, I still fill a little guilty about it.  Guilty about deleting it, that is.

On Sunday morning, as we recite the Psalm appointed for Advent 1, Year B, we will thrice pray these words, “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”  Honestly, I can’t think of more appropriate words to pray after a weekend of gluttony, envy, and credit card debt.  I won’t get all snippy about stores opening on Thanksgiving.  Every year, I thank God that the grocery store is open so that I can buy pickled okra for bloody mary’s or butter for the mashed potatoes.  What I will get all soap-boxy about is our cultural drive toward more.  Black Friday (and now Early Bird Thanksgiving Thursday) merely takes advantage of a predisposition in American culture toward over-consumption.  Be it turkey and stuffing or iPhones and flat screen TVs, we like to have more than enough, and we’ll go deep into debt in order to ensure it.

The alternative to that, an alternative that is evidenced in the life and ministry of Jesus and is enunciated in the writings of Saint Paul, is the Christian call to contentment.  Around the dinner table on Thursday mid-afternoon, families of all shapes, sizes, and religious backgrounds from Muslim to Jewish to Christian to Atheist will pause to give thanks for the things they have in their life: health, home, family, and material comfort chief among them.  If we were truly thankful for those things, then they would be enough.  We would be content with what we’ve got, not scouring the internet for the next big thing.

I realize this is naive of me.  I know it is not a popular opinion.  I’m sure most would blame it on Madison Avenue, but I really think that the insanity of Early Bird Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are indicative of our human frailty, sign and symbol of our sinfulness.  And so, I hope this Sunday, we’ll take a moment in the midst of the madness to pause, give honest thanks, and pray for God’s restorative work to create room for contentment, even in our always wondering souls.

When waiting breaks your heart

“How long, O Lord?”  That is the cry of the Psalmist and the Prophets.  “How long must we wait for your dream to become reality?” remains the cry for the faithful even today.  Since yesterday at about 8:26pm CST, I’ve been pondering this question of “How long?” and thinking, in light of the lessons for Advent 1, and the call to holy waiting, how I can faithful live in the meantime because living in the meantime can be heartbreaking.

Living in the meantime means living as a broken and sinful human being in a broken and sinful world.  It means paying the penalty for sin: my own and a myriad of systemic ones.  It means that sometimes a young black man, after a lifetime of living in fear of the police, makes a terrible choice and ends up dead.  It means sometimes that a young white man, in a position of authority and carrying a gun for a living, makes a terrible choice and kills that young black man.  It means sometimes that a grand jury, bound by laws that aren’t perfect makes a decision that is devastating to a family and a community.  It means sometimes that a group of people so fed up with the way things are takes to the streets to exact vigilante justice that devastates whole families and communities.  It means watching as conservative bloggers say some crazy racist stuff that gets liked by a friend on Facebook.  It means watching as liberal bloggers say some crazy insensitive stuff that gets retweeted by a friend on Twitter.  Living in the meantime means having your heart broken again and again by bigotry, injustice, violence, and hatred.

Living faithfully in the meantime means being a force for justice, hope, peace, and restoration.  It means putting a stop to the cycle of demonization, anger, violence, and vitriol that perpetuates the broken system.  Too often, in the emotional aftermath of an event like the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, even the Church forgets this call.  Too often, the Social Media accounts of the clergy look like the same bubbling cauldrons that the 24 hour news cycle has taught us to worship.  Too often, Christians forget to be harbingers of peace in the midst of conflict.

How long, O Lord, how long?

My heart breaks for the family of Michael Brown.  My heart breaks for Darren Wilson and his family.  My heart breaks for every African American person who lives in fear of the police, and my heart breaks for every police officer who lives in fear of every young black man they see.  My heart breaks for Ferguson, and for every place where the dream of God, that all should be united one to another and to God, has yet to be realized.  And so this morning, a few days ahead of the start of Advent, I will begin this year’s Advent Practice.   Following the suggestion of Bishop Matthew Wren from way back in 1662, I will pray the Collect for Advent 1 at least once each day.  I will pray through the waiting and through the heartbreak, trusting that through God’s grace, I can be a part of a Church that casts away the darkness of this broken and sinful world, and puts on the armor of light, of hope, of peace, and above all, the armor of love.  Won’t you join me?

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Advent Prayer

What Waiting Looks Like

Advent is coming!  Advent is coming!  As my friend Evan Garner reminds us, Advent is a season in which the pull of the culture and the pull of the Church are seemingly at odds with one another.  Christmas music has been playing on the radio for two weeks already and trees have been for sale in the Wal*Mart Christmas Shoppe since before Halloween.  The culture is waiting for Christmas and all the material gains with which this annual feast is now associated.  On the other hand, the Church, though her lessons and her [dreadful] Advent music is inviting us not to wait for the coming of the Christ child on Christmas Day, but rather for his Second Advent, when he will come with power and great glory to judge the quick and the dead.

For most of us, normal, everyday followers of Jesus, this season drips with the paradoxes of Advent.  We attend Christmas parties and then head home to light an Advent wreath and read from our Advent devotional.  In the midst of waiting to sing Joy to the World by candlelight at midnight “mass,” we hear the words of the prophet who call us to repentance and preparation for the day of judgment.  We struggle with how to wait with eager expectation of both events when they seem to diametrically opposed.  As I’ve once again pondered my general uneasiness with Advent, I’ve found myself drawn toward Jesus’ parable of the eschaton from Mark 13.

“It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake– for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

“Each with his [or her] work.”  For me, that is what this season of waiting is all about.  It isn’t about sitting around staring at my iPhone.  It isn’t about pounding Red Bulls panicking that Jesus might show up unannounced.  It isn’t about fear of being left behind.  It is about being about the work of the Kingdom.  Each of us has been assigned a task, our vocation and calling, and equipped with gifts by the Holy Spirit to be about our work.  In the meantime, between the First and Second Advents, we are to be busy doing that work, building the kingdom, freeing the enslaved, and uniting those who have been divided.

Origin Story – An Acts 8 BLOGFORCE Challenge

This week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE Challenge is seeking out the stories of how you came to be a Christian and an Episcopalian.  The fun, or perhaps quirky, twist being that the 120 word abstract should sound like a superhero origin story.  You can find out more by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.  Without any further ado, I offer you my origin story.

I was a senior in High School and it was Young Life Banquet time.  My YL leader, Flecth, had asked several of us to share our testimonies at the tables of some of YL Lancaster’s biggest donors.  I remember feeling some strange mixture of trepidation and relief as I prepared my story.  I was terrified because my story of how God found me is pretty boring.  I was relieved because I didn’t have to tell my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends about the day I woke up in the middle of a corn field with a needle sticking out of my arm and saw Jesus standing in front of me.  I feel a similar strange mixture today.

I grew up as the quintessential first child.  To this day, I am a ruler follower ad nauseam.  When I was 16, I spent three weeks in Germany with my high school German class.  There is no legal drinking age in Germany, but I still only drank once while I was there, and I still feel guilty about it.  The Church and the moral life to which she calls us has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.  After the youth group at Saint Thomas crashed and burned as I entered into high school, I spent several years bouncing between the CMA church’s youth group and Young Life.  I remember pulling my Saturn over on Manheim Pike one Friday morning to write down the date and time I had invited Jesus into my life, but the truth is, he had always been there.

My entrance into The Episcopal Church happened when I was three years old.  My dad had been transferred from R.R. Donnelly’s home base in Chicago, IL to a brand new plant built to produce TV Guides in scenic Lancaster, PA.  As the story goes, the Realtor my parents used to find a new house was a saintly woman named Jeanne Ritter.  After selling them the perfect house for a family with two small children, Jeanne said something like, “I go to Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church.  You should try it out.”  They tried it out, and it stuck.

Though I attended an Episcopal Church with my family from early on, I didn’t really understand what it meant to be an Episcopalian, to be imbued with the rhythm of life and the words of the Book of Common Prayer really until I entered the discernment process.  It was there that I learned what all those words I could say by heart: from the opening acclamation to the dismissal; really meant.  I guess that’s why I have such a passion for liturgics, Church history, and general church-nerdery these days.  I want everyone to know how these words that seem rote to the outside observer can be living, active, and offer so much more than the rules and guilt that are so often associated with Christianity.

My origin story doesn’t have superhero qualities to it, but I’ve come to realize that that’s OK.  God enters our lives in all sorts of different ways, but most often, it is by way of a simple invitation.  Thanks be to God.

Judgement and Grace

Sometimes you just have to laugh at life, and life in the Church is no exception.  We had one of those moments this past Sunday after the Zephaniah reading.  For those of you on Track 1 of the RCL or in case you don’t remember, the lesson from Zephaniah for Proper 28A includes this gem of a line, “I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.”  After eight tough verses of judgement and condemnation, the lector concluded the lesson with the familiar Prayer Book phrase, “The Word of the Lord.”  Without hesitation, at all three services on Sunday, the congregation replied, “Thanks be to God.”

Thanks be to God!?!?  Really?  Were you not paying attention?  The reading said that the Lord would pour out people’s flesh like dung for God’s sake.  Thanks be to God?!?!

Well, yes actually.  You see without judgement, there is no grace.  One can not be forgiven if there is no need of forgiveness.  So, as is the case so often in the prophets, judgement is pronounced by Zephaniah in as stark a terms as possible.  If this didn’t get the people’s attention, nothing would.  Knowing that judgement always precedes grace, we are able to, even if it is through gritted teeth say, “thanks be to God.”

And while it is dangerous to jump between books of the Bible, the Lectionary offers a gift for those who are paying attention in the Ezekiel lesson for Christ the King.  In his pronouncement of calamity, Zephaniah tells of the day of judgement, “That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.”  Ezekiel, in his promise of redemption, uses this word of grace, “I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

For all those who felt just a wee-bit uncomfortable saying “thanks be to God” last Sunday, your gift this week is the fulfillment of the judgement and grace cycle.  Yes, there are consequences to our actions.  AND. Yes, God forgives.

Thanks be to God!

Who is “the least of these”?

Maybe I’m still stuck on All Saints’ Day.  Maybe I’m thinking too much about our last real-life Draughting Theology of the fall.  Maybe I’m still a little groggy from the Nyquil I took last night.  Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to get the question, “What makes a Saint?” out of my head.  As I read the Gospel lesson appointed for Christ the King, the question morphed into “Who is ‘the least of these’?”  As I read Jesus’ words, my tendency is to see me as either a sheep or a goat, and ask myself, have I been faithful in serving the least?  The more I think about it, however, the more I wonder if I’m coming at this from the wrong angle.

The least of these includes:

  • The hungry
  • The thirsty
  • Strangers
  • The naked
  • The sick
  • Prisoners

As a middle class American, I don’t really know what it means to be hungry, thirsty, or naked.  I’ve never been imprisoned, but I most certainly have been a stranger and I’ve known some form of sickness.  I am “the least of these,” and, I suspect, so are you.  Perhaps this story is less about how I judge myself as a sheep or a goat or how I judge my neighbor on the same grounds, but how we, as a community of the “least of these”, takes care of one another amid the trials and tribulations of this life.  The first part of taking care of one another comes when I finally admit that I am, in fact, one of the least of these and in need of help.  This can be difficult because it requires vulnerability and nobody likes to be vulnerable, but it is only in our willingness to be helped that others have the opportunity to serve.  It is by practicing service in the midst of the congregation that we learn to reach out beyond ourselves and serve the wider community of “the least of these.”

Well Done – Saint Paul’s 2015 Plan for Mission – a sermon

Yesterday’s sermon is available on the Saint Paul’s website, or you can read it here.

Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.”  Isn’t that the truth?  It feels good to get a well-deserved pat on the back, but what if I told you that there was one compliment that could guarantee you eternal life?  I’m not saying that if you don’t hear these words, you’re doomed to be thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but Jesus seems to.  In this morning’s Gospel lesson the Master tells two of his slaves the words that I long to hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Just think about it.  You’ve just died peacefully in your bed, with your family by your side, when you find yourself standing in front of the Pearly Gates.  As you look up at the grandeur of Heaven that is infinitely more than you could ever even imagine, you see Jesus standing before you, arms outstretched with a wide, toothy smile, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Oh man, that would be the best.  The good news is that those words are so simple to hear.  All we have to do is be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us.

If we take the parable of the talents at face value, then this is a story about how we use our material wealth.  The landowner had money upon money.  He was Scrooge McDuck rich and he wanted to get richer, so rather than put his money in a safe while he went on his journey, he gave it to three of his servants so that they could continue the work in his absence.  To the first he gave 5 talents, 75 years’ worth of wages.  To the second, he gave two talents, 30 years’ worth.  Finally, the third he have one talent, 15 years’ worth of money.  Upon his return, the first servant gave him back 10 talents, the second had four to give, but the third returned only the one talent.  The third servant’s sin, it seems, was that he was too paralyzed by the fear of scarcity to realize the abundance of the gift of his master.  He had roughly $375,000 at his disposal and was afraid to lose even a penny of it.  Through this parable, Jesus calls us to not hold onto the material things of this world, but to take the risk of sharing them for the up-building of the Kingdom of God.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last seven-plus years, I’ve talked with someone about financial stewardship and heard them say, “I’m just afraid there won’t be enough.”  I get it.  I said that for many years.  Prior to going to seminary, and even through seminary, I subscribed to a left-over model of scarcity giving.  Whatever cash was left over in my pocket on Sunday morning, less what I needed for brunch after the service, was what went into the plate.  My average monthly gift was probably $15.00, and there was never enough money.  When I got ordained, Cassie and I made the decision that if I was going to ask people to give God 10% of their income then as a family, we also needed to tithe.  These days, our donations include 7% to Saint Paul’s, 2% to EduKenya, and 1% to Beckwith.  Roughly $625 a month goes out the door, off the top, to support the work of the Kingdom, and you know what, there is rarely enough money.  Just a few months ago, we had one of those months where the car broke down. Twice.  The kids needed school clothes.  Someone got sick, of course, and the month simply ran longer than the money.  In the midst of feeling sorry for myself, I went through our financials and realized just how much we had given away and do you know what I felt?  I felt the joy of the master.  There may not have been enough money that month, but there was most certainly enough.

I tell you this not to make the Pankeys look good or to make you feel bad, but to tell you that the joy that God promises for those who are faithful stewards of his bounty is real, it is available, and it surpasses anything that money can buy.  The other reason I’m telling you this is that I don’t think this parable is just about an individual or even a family.  I think this story is about Saint Paul’s in Foley.  On Monday evening, your vestry approved a preliminary 2015 Plan for Mission that is all about taking the gifts God has given us and using them for his honor and glory.  For 2014, our budget is $340,000 dollars which includes little, if any outreach.  Outreach happens, of course, but through a $25,000 shadow budget of Valentine’s Dinners, chili sales, and special requests.  For 2015, we plan to take seriously the Master’s call to be about the work of the kingdom by being good stewards of our money, our staff, our buildings, and our people.  Based on the feedback we received during last fall’s Community Conversation meals, we’re planning to continue to grow in education, fellowship, children’s ministry and outreach.  We’re beginning to stock-pile for the new roof that’s five years out.  We’re budgeting for our youth to take a summer mission trip without having to dress up like waters to beg for money.  We’re planning for several fellowship events that will bring the whole family together to simply enjoy one another’s company.  We hope to raise our Diocesan pledge from 4.5% to 6%, with a goal of tithing to the Diocese within 5 years. And because our baptismal covenant calls us to reach out beyond 506 North Pine Street in a big way, we plan to make $40,000 available for mission and outreach within our local community, including half the down payment for a Habitat for Humanity house.  We’ve set aside some money to upgrade the furnishings in the Mission House, formerly known as the Education Building, to better accommodate the 1,000 or so heads in beds each year, funds to repair the ceiling in the AA Building, and the ability to make several significant gifts to other worthy causes.  The lesson that I learned from the Parable of the Talents this week is that we aren’t called simply to exist where we are; we are called to take risks in order to make a difference as the hands and feet of Christ in Foley, Alabama.

In the coming days, you will be invited to make a commitment to the Plan for Mission at Saint Paul’s.  The key to this plan’s success is having pledges toward our goal of raising $438,463.67 in 2015, a 15% increase over this year.  Without the commitment of the whole congregation to make this Mission happen, we simply can’t do it.  We know 100% participation is impossible, but it’s our goal anyway.  By my count, we have approximately 160 families at Saint Paul’s.  In 2014, 30% of those families made a pledge making up 60% of our budget.  This year, it is our hope to reach 100% pledge participation, funding 100% of our Plan for Mission.  Whether you have been pledging for years or have never made a pledge before, I know that it is unreasonable for me to expect you to jump from wherever you might be to giving away 10%.  It took getting ordained for me to finally do it, but I hope that you’ll consider looking at where you are now and investing 15% more in the Plan for Mission.  If you’re giving $10 a month, try $11.15.  If you’re giving $100, shoot for $115.  If you’re giving $1,000 a month, how about $1150?  Together, we can live into the dream that God has for us.

Of course, this parable isn’t just about money; it is also about your skills as a carpenter, computer programmer, photographer, master gardener, grandparent, teacher, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker and how you use them to build up the kingdom of God.  For Saint Paul’s in Foley to live into our Plan for Mission, it’ll take everybody’s talents: financial and otherwise, with a dash of risk and a whole lot of faith in a Master who loves us beyond measure.  In the end, it is the my hope, Keith’s hope, and the hope of your vestry that we’ll look back on 2015 as a year in which God blessed us with a warm embrace and the soothing words, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”  Amen.

C.R.E.A.M.

In the words of the Wu Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, C.R.E.A.M, get the money, dolla, dolla bill y’all.”  In its original context, this is, of course, what the Parable of the Talents is all about.  A man is going on a trip and rather than letting his significant wealth sit idle while he’s gone, he gives it to three of his slaves, each according to their ability, in order that they might put it to good use.

These are not insignificant sums of money.  Depending on whether you subscribe to weights of measure or daily wage theories for what a talent was in Jesus’ day, we’re talking the modern day equivalent of $1.7M or $375K per Talent.  I’m a daily wage guy, since that’s what I’ve read most in the scholarship, so a talent equals 15 years worth of the average daily wage for a laborer.  In Foley, Alabama, that is roughly $375,000.  So to the first slave goes $1.875M, the second gets $750k, and the third, $375k.  Upon his return, the first gives his master back $3.75M, the second, $1.5M, and the third still has $375k.  That’s an overall ROI of over 87%!  The lesson, obviously, is to be wise stewards of the gifts that God has given for the upbuilding of the kingdom.

What I’ve found interesting this week is that clergy throughout the ages have been uncomfortable with the Wu Tang Clan’s CREAM philosophy.  Over and over again this parable has been used metaphorically to talk not about money, but rather about the natural skills and aptitudes with which God has blessed us.  It has happened so often and for so long that etymologically, the meaning of the English word “talent” comes from this exegetical slant on Matthew 25 (HT Kathryn Matthews).  Don’t believe me, here’s what Google says when you ask it for information on the etymology of talent.

talent

Of course this parable is about money, CREAM isn’t just for rap stars.  It is also about much more than, but if preachers are so afraid to talk about the money piece with their congregations as to create a new word usage in English, then we’ve got a problem that can’t be fixed by fancy word choice and dancing around the issues.  So as you prepare to preach this Sunday, in the midst of what is probably stewardship season, remember, dear reader, the wisdom of the Wu Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM, get the money, dolla, dolla bill, y’all”

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

As the Virginia Theological Seminary Class of 2007 departed campus to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the Very Reverend Martha J. Horne, Dean and President of VTS also transitioned into a new phase of life called retirement.  She was the obvious choice for our commencement speaker, and in the back of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Auditorium (now Interim Chapel) there hung a sign that read “Well done good and faithful servant” in thanksgiving for her many years of devotion to VTS, the Church, and most importantly, the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Blessed Martha

                     Blessed Martha

Having served as Student Body President that final year, I got to know Dean Horne a little bit, and quickly came to realize that she is probably not the type of person one would expect to serve as Dean and President of the largest seminary in the Anglican Communion.  Unlike her successor, Dean Markham, Dean Horne is a highly introverted person, soft spoken, and unostentatiously genteel.  She didn’t command a room, but she was most certainly in charge because she utilized the gifts and talents with which God has blessed her to lead VTS with wisdom and love through the tumultuous days of the early 21st century.  The sign which hung at our graduation spoke to her service and to the Gospel witness that God desires that we use the gifts he has entrusted to our care.

Each of us has been given gifts and talents.  Some are our birthright, others come through the Holy Spirit in baptism, and still others are bestowed in our hour of need.  To squander those gifts out of fear and/or laziness is as egregious a sin as any other.  As disciples of Jesus, we are called upon to use our many and diverse gifts to build the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  This means that we don’t make excuses for our gaps in other areas, but instead we trust in God to surround us with the right people to complete the mission.  Virginia Seminary had outgoing and gregarious leaders during the Martha Horne administration, it had prophetic voices, it had the occasional clanging cymbal, and it had Dean Horne as the non-anxious presence, steady at the helm.  The sign the hung at our graduation ceremony was for Dean Horne, but it really was for all of us.  It is only in community that our talents are used to their fullest potential, that the Kingdom can come near, and that we can all hear the words of the Master.

“Well done, good and faithful servants.”

A Sure and Certain Hope

Life in the Church during the first generation after Jesus must have been a mixture of excitement, joy, sorrow pain, and confusion. Come to think of it, that’s a lot like life in the Church today. Still, in those first few years, as everyone was trying to work out what it meant to follow a man who had taught, healed, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of God, it must have been like living on pins and needles every moment of every day. When would he return? How would it happen? Would we live to see that day? What should be do in the meantime.

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, knows exactly what they are feeling. They want Jesus to come back today to set it all right, but he just isn’t following their time table. People are wondering if they should get married, bother having children, or even go to work. Most especially, they are watching as some of the fellow believers die and are concerned about what might happen to them when they die. So Paul sets out to ease their troubled minds. “We do not want you to be uninformed… about those who have died,” he writes, “so that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”

It isn’t that, as Christians, we don’t grieve, but rather we grieve through the lens of hope. Or as our Prayer Book calls it, a “sure and certain hope in the resurrection” This morning at Saint James’ Church in Fairhope, Alabama, the faithful gathered to mourn the loss of a faithful servant, the Rev. Jack Miller. We sang words of joy and hope, we prayed prayers of thanksgiving and commendation, we heard the Scriptures read, and the word of God preached. We gathered, as the Rev. Keith Talbert so eloquently said, “because we belive.” We believe that through Jesus Christ who died and rose again, we have been redeemed, set free to enjoy the fruits of eternal life right here and right now, and that “God will bring with him those who have died.” We believe that life on earth has meaning, deep and beautiful meaning, and that life beyond this earth is the free gift of the God who’s love is so strong that nothing can separate us from it.

We believe. We have hope. We are the Lord’s possesion, the children of God.