Excerpts from Bishop Mariann’s Easter Sermon at Washington National Cathedral
Those of us called to be followers of Jesus have the extraordinary privilege and responsibility of living a resurrection faith, staking our lives on its assurance that God will meet us in whatever happens and guide us on a path of hope. If we’re looking for a something quick and easy and hugely dramatic, we won’t find it here. Resurrection is a subtle process, one that doesn’t gloss over the hardships we endure. It feels more like a wind shifting, the gradual turning of midnight to dawn, a seed breaking through the muddy earth after a long and frozen winter, a stranger appearing out of nowhere to tell you precisely what you need to hear. Sometimes it feels like a second chance; other times like a new possibility where there was once a closed door.
Resurrection also takes time, a lifetime, in fact, to experience as real. Which is why we celebrate it not only on high days like this one, but also on low days when it’s all we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning and throw on a pair of jeans. Easter is not a day for us, but a way of life. Today is but one day on a long and wondrous journey. After today, followers of Jesus will show up here or in other places of worship next week, and the week after that, and the one after that. In between, we’ll be out living our lives and doing whatever we can to bring good into the world. We’ll march, cook food, read stories to our children, make appointments with our legislators, go to the theatre, listen to glorious music, and work for peace. Resurrection is everywhere, and after today we’ll give thanks for the excuse to throw a great, great party and invite all of you, and then go back to work of living it even when it’s hard and little scary.
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Watch the recording (Bishop Mariann begins her sermon around 01:06:50)
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
‘Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Good morning! Thank you for choosing to come here, or watch from your home, to be part of this celebration of hope that meets despair; love that is stronger than hate; and life that awaits us all on the other side of death. It is an audacious faith, and it always has been.
On behalf of all of us gathered, I’d like to take a moment to thank those who have worked so hard to make this day, and this place, one of great beauty in sound and sight. In a month when three African American churches in Louisiana were destroyed by arson, the world watched as Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed by flame, and just this Easter morning when three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed, we realize the importance of sacred spaces and how devastating it is when they are damaged, destroyed or worse still, attacked. Yet we know that the living God cannot be contained in structures built by human hands, and nor can arson, fire, or a bomb destroy a living faith. Easter morning asks us to believe that neither can death.
I’d like to speak to you about living faith. Now if you’re here today not at all convinced that what Christians celebrate on Easter is true, or if it is true, if it matters; or if something’s happened in your life, or in our world, that’s caused you to doubt what you once believed, or thought you believed to be true; or if you want to believe, but simply can’t wrap your head around what people describe as their faith in God, faith in Jesus; or if you’re not even in the zone, as they say, but just trying to make it through the day and somehow you landed here, trust me, you’re not alone. You’re not alone among Christians. Faith without doubt, as they say, is faith without a pulse. Every one of us, no matter how good we might look on the outside, carries our share of doubt and worry and unresolved pain and the weight of burdens others do not know. It has always been so.
I grant you that this is not an easy time to be a person of faith, if there ever was one. Thinking back on all that’s happened in the past year alone, and is happening now, we don’t know what the future will bring. But then again, our ancestors had struggles that certainly put ours in perspective, and the first witnesses to the resurrection didn’t have an easy go of it, either. I’ve spent the better part of a week reflecting upon the four written accounts of that first Easter morning. Taken together, they paint a scene not of triumph, but first of sorrow and fear, then chaos and confusion, to which I think we can all relate.
Yet I suggest to you that this is also a fine time for faith–maybe the best time– particularly for faith in resurrection. For resurrection is the assurance of God’s empowerment and presence in and through the worst that can happen to us. Those who promote Christianity as a faith of ease, triumph and prosperity are not reading their gospels carefully. Christianity is a faith that insists that God suffers alongside us, that Jesus’ solidarity is with suffering. It is that solidarity that carries us through, giving us a quiet amazement that life can indeed be lived after something precious is lost. The grace and mercy of Christ meet us in the crucible of real life, where real things happen, not all of them easy. These are the times that faith, living faith, is for.
I’m not speaking of faith only as the acceptance of particular religious ideas about Jesus or anyone else, although that’s certainly important. Faith is an orientation toward life defined by courage and trust, a willingness to risk, to live one’s life, facing the future with hope even when the light you’re living by only extends out a few feet, like headlights in the fog. It involves seeking out meaningful experiences and searching for the truths that are, in the end, worthy of your life.
Peter Gomes, the late, great professor of ethics and chaplain at Harvard University used to preach essentially the same sermon every spring to the students at Harvard that he entitled, “How Are You Going to Live after the Fall?” “Innocent pagans that most of them are,” he wrote about that sermon in a book entitled, The Good Life, “they assume that I’m asking them what their plans are after September. But I’m not. I’m asking them what they are going to do after their first dreams fall from the sky. What are you going to do, I ask them, when you don’t get the job, when you don’t get the girl or the boy, when you are brushed aside or hurt, when your children rise up to treat you as you treated your parents? What are you going to do?” “The Good Life, that you rightly seek,” I tell them, “must serve you in your most difficult, desperately hard times. It must help you to cope in your moments of doubt and despair. If what you live by does not serve you then, it is no good for you, even in the good times.” (Peter Gomes, The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).)
We can put our faith in resurrection. I’m not talking merely about what happened to Jesus a long time ago, although I’ll start there; nor am I referring to awaits us when we die, although I’ll get to that, too. What I want to describe is how we can experience and trust–that is, put our faith in–the experience of resurrection now. And here’s the thing: you don’t have be a Christian, or a believer of any kind, to experience resurrection. For resurrection is God’s way with us; it’s embedded in Creation. Once you experience resurrection, and recognize it for what it is, you might better understand what keeps a life-giving, self-sacrificing, love-for-others faith in Jesus alive in the midst of everything we human beings do in the name of Jesus to discredit him. In the words of Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, “The Risen Christ is not a one-time miracle but the revelation of a universal pattern. . . Love is the energy that sustains the universe, moving us toward a future of resurrection. We do not need to call it love or God or resurrection for its work to be done.” (Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (New York: Convergent Books, 2019). Pp.99-100.)
The gospel accounts of the first Easter morning reveal the pattern and process of resurrection that we can trust. All four describe an experience that begins in grief. So the first thing to remember about a resurrection experience is that it must begin in death, a loss of something or someone so profound that a part of us dies, too.
The second thing to remember, as I mentioned, is that there’s a certain amount of chaos and confusion involved. As it turns out, resurrection is a rather messy process. I don’t know how you feel about that, but for me, to be reminded of that is somehow validating and a relief.
The third thing the ancient stories tell us about a resurrection experience is that in some real way, in the midst of the worst that can happen, God shows up. I don’t know how else to describe it. God shows us for us, and with us, and sometimes even through us, and not because of anything we did or didn’t do. In fact, God typically shows up in resurrection where we least deserve it. The wondrously articulate Nadia Bolz Weber describes the experience this way: “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of our humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” (Nadia-Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky and Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint)
The last thing I’ll say about the experience of resurrection now is that it almost always comes with an invitation to pay it forward, to show up for someone else as God showed up for us. This is what St. Paul means when he describes Christians as “ambassadors for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) Christians, to quote Richard Rohr again, are meant to be “the visible compassion of God on earth more than those who are going to heaven.” And whenever we do this, whenever we show up, and get close enough to other people to allow that suffering to change us, we are taking up resurrection work. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “redemptive suffering,” suffering in the service of life for someone else. It’s not an easy way to live but once you’ve seen it and has a taste of it, nothing else quite measures up.
Years ago, Anne Lamott wrote of this same search for goodness in an essay she entitled, “Why I Make Sam Go to Church,” which when I was a parish priest was required reading for parents seeking baptism for the children. “Sam is the only kid he knows who goes to church,” Lamott writes of her son. “He rarely wants to. This is not exactly true: the truth is he never wants to go. What young boy would rather be in church on the weekends than hanging out with a friend? It does not help him to be reminded that once he’s there he enjoys himself. It does not help that he genuinely cares for the people there and they for him. All that matters to him is that he alone among his colleagues is forced to spend Sunday morning in church.”
“You might think,” she goes on, “noting the bitterness, the resignation, that he was being made to sit through a six-hour Latin mass. Or you might wonder why I make this strapping, exuberant boy come with me most weekends, and if you were to ask, this is what I would say. I make him because I can. I outweigh him by nearly seventy-five pounds.”
But that is only part of it. The main reason is that I want to give him what I have found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want—which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians—people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful…Our funky little church is filled with people who are working for peace and freedom, who are out there on the streets and inside praying, and they are home writing letters, and they are at the shelters with giant platters of food…When I was at the end of my rope, the people at my church tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on…” (Anne Lamott, “Why I Make Sam Go to Church,” in Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (New York: Random House, 1999.), pp. 99-100.)
For those of us called to be followers of Jesus, we have the extraordinary privilege and responsibility of living a resurrection faith, staking our lives on its assurance that God will meet us in whatever happens and guide us on a path of hope. If we’re looking for a something quick and easy and hugely dramatic, we won’t find it here. Resurrection is a subtle process, one that doesn’t gloss over the hardships we endure. It feels more like a wind shifting, the gradual turning of midnight to dawn, a seed breaking through the muddy earth after a long and frozen winter, a stranger appearing out of nowhere to tell you precisely what you need to hear. Sometimes it feels like a second chance; other times like a new possibility where there was once a closed door.
Resurrection also takes time, a lifetime, in fact, to experience as real. Which is why we celebrate it not only on high days like this one, but also on low days when it’s all we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning and throw on a pair of jeans. Easter is not a day for us, but a way of life. Today is but one day on a long and wondrous journey. After today, followers of Jesus will show up here or in other places of worship next week, and the week after that, and the one after that. In between, we’ll be out living our lives and doing whatever we can to bring good into the world. We’ll march, cook food, read stories to our children, make appointments with our legislators, go to the theatre, listen to glorious music, and work for peace. Resurrection is everywhere, and after today we’ll give thanks for the excuse to throw a great great party and invite all of you, and then go back to work of living it even when it’s hard and little scary.
“Nothing worth doing is completed in a day or in our lifetime,” Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote of this path back in the Cold War years, “Therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in its immediate context; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe. Therefore, we must be saved by that final form of love which is forgiveness.” (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (The University of Chicago Press, 1952).)
This is not an easy faith, but it’s good, in the best sense of the word, full of grit and promise and fierce calm. Christ is not a panacea or a platitude, but an authentic presence of love, forgiveness and empowerment. No, this is not an easy time, but it’s our time. We don’t live easy lives, but they are good. As St. Paul said, by the grace of God I am who I am, and God’s grace has not been in vain. It’s not an easy faith, but it’s our faith. And remember your faith need never be as strong as what we can all put our faith in–the mystery of resurrection, the empowering presence of Christ, a light to go by and a way to live.
One final word, now, about about the mystery that lies beyond our physical death, about which I know nothing first hand. I speak especially to those grieving the death of one taken too soon, or who, like me, feel overwhelmed by the amount of senseless death in our world, or those who are facing your own death.
None of us knows for certain what lies behind the grave, but I have come to trust the ancient human intuition, embedded in spiritual traditions across humankind, that there is another side, there is another realm, there is a place–not a physical one as we know it nor that we can fully grasp–where souls are safe, and spirits live on. St. Paul wrote, “It is not for this life only that we have hope.” (I Corinthians 15:9) Thank God for that.
One tangible fruit of a living faith in resurrection, intentionally practiced over time, is that it gives us a way of imagining what it will be like at the final crossing, and a place to entrust all those who have gone before. The mystics assure us that distance between us and that place isn’t a great as we imagine it to be, and at times we may feel what can only be described as even proximity to that other realm. Should you experience it, I think you can trust it. When your time comes to surrender this life, I pray you can lean back, trusting that Christ’s arms are there to hold you and bring you home.
In the meantime, may you live your life to the full, invest in the places and people and offerings that are worthy of your life and will sustain you through the hardest times. Dare to believe that Christ has you back, now and when you need him most, and that nothing in this world–not in life or death–can separate you, can separate any of us from the love God revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
The four gospel accounts of the first Easter morning describe a day that began not in triumph, but in grief. Thus, the first thing to remember about any resurrection experience we might have is that it, too, must begin in death, as when a loved one is taken too soon, a dream is shattered, or a Cathedral burns.
All four accounts agree that on the first Easter morning, the women closest to Jesus went to the cave where his body had been placed. But from there, details diverge significantly about which women went and why, and who else was there, and who spoke to them, and what was said. Taken together, the stories of the first Easter paint a chaotic and confusing scene.
The second thing to know about a resurrection experience is that it’s a not a neat, linear experience. There’s no magic wand, sweeping away the sadness and instantly replacing it in with joy. Life after death comes in fits and starts. We don’t know what to make of it at first. We aren’t sure what to do, where to go, what to think. As on the first Easter, it’s disorienting and messy when God brings life out of our death.
What ultimately gave the first witnesses to resurrection their confidence and joy was an experience of Jesus’ presence with them. Jesus called Mary Magdalene by her name, and immediately she knew that he was alive. Later he met two disciples on the road and while he spoke to them they felt their hearts burning, and they knew he was alive. He appeared to Thomas in the Upper Room, and again to all the disciples on the shores of Lake Galilee, and they knew, not only that he was alive, but that he loved them still, in spite of everything, and would love them always.
“For I am convinced,” writes St. Paul, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39)
This is the Easter message: Nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nothing we do, nothing done to us. Resurrection is not only an event that happened long ago. It is God’s way with us, now, bringing life out of death, and walking with us every step of the way.
This Easter, dare to believe that it’s true. In times of grief, wait and watch for the life that comes to you from God. In the midst of chaos and confusion, don’t be afraid to live the new life given you in resurrection. And remember this: nothing can separate you, can separate any of us, from the love of God in Christ.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself. . .
May God be praised for all those hard at work preparing for Holy Week observances and Easter celebrations across the diocese. These sacred rituals help us experience the foundational truths of the Christian faith: that God is with us through times of suffering, forgives us when we fail, and has the power to take the worst of what we do and can happen to us—even death itself—and bring new life.
Holy Week is not an easy observance, yet it reminds us of what we need in order to live as people of hope in anxious times. I pray that you may feel and experience the loving presence of Christ as you help us re-enact the last days of Jesus’ life on earth, his seminal teachings of service and forgiveness, his steadfast love even in betrayal and crucifixion, and God’s response, so wondrous we can barely take it in, resurrection.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, writes:
We tell the story of Jesus as the record of a life which not only embodied gift, meaning and freedom in a unique and definitive way, but also was crowned by a strange and elusive event which declared this life not to be over . . . The community of faith is charged with sharing this vision and this possibility of life with all the world.
As we enter this most Holy Week, may you feel the presence of Christ in our midst. Thank you for your part in telling the story of Jesus and his love.
Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”
Genesis 37: 17-20
Jesus said, “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
I’m so glad to be here at St. John’s, Broad Creek this morning and grateful to God for the leadership of your rector, the Rev. Sarah Odderstol, and for your lay leaders. Many blessings to those being confirming and reaffirming your commitment to follow Jesus in His way of love, and to those being received as full members of the Episcopal Church. What an occasion for celebration!
It has been a very good year at St. John’s, and a challenging one. The goodness is evidenced by the joyful spirit among you, the depth of your commitment to grow in faith and love, your increased engagement in Bible Study, worship, and service.
One of the challenges has been rain and the continued flooding of your property. The flooding raises hard issues for your leadership and places considerable stress on your rector and her family.
I am here today to celebrate the goodness and grace you share as a community of faith, and to do what I can to support your leaders in addressing challenges. Together we are asking what we can do so that the structures intended to support your ministry are not a hindrance to it. I am persuaded that the One who has begun a good work in each one of you, and in this congregation, will see it through to completion, and that the power of the Holy Spirit working in us can accomplish far more than we can ask for or even imagine.
God’s very spirit at work in and through us is not the same thing as our working for God. Sometimes I get confused about that, and I imagine that it’s my responsibility to do good things for God, and to convince or encourage others, like you, to do good things for God, or for the church, and for your families, and for the world.
Doing good is certainly better than not doing good or conversely, doing harm. But the transformational power we are privileged to be a part of in this life happens when we focus less on ourselves and more on Jesus; when we open ourselves to the love of God made known to us in Jesus and then do our best to align our lives with that love. That aligning may require hard work on our part, but it’s a fundamentally different experience, with a different energy, than when we work from our own strength alone.
A mentor wrote me this week one of those encouraging letters that came at just the right moment with a word I needed to hear. That word was: “Get out of the way and let God do the heavy lifting.” In Alcoholics Anonymous, a similar slogan is “Let go and let God.” This doesn’t mean that we are to be passive in life and not do anything, but rather that we learn to wait and trust and be still before taking action, and allow God’s power to work in and through us.
We can’t know for certain how this divine-human alignment works. We aren’t in control of it, and we certainly don’t get it right from our end all the time. I know that I don’t. But friends, this is the fundamental Christian experience: feeling a power and a presence at work in and through us, assuring us we are not alone, that Jesus is Lord and we are not. To put it plainly, we are not in charge. Our call is to follow where Jesus leads.
There are any number of images that can help us picture in our minds and better live into this experience. A friend of mine speaks of putting her hand in Jesus’ hand and walking with him. Another describes the experience as being in a car and inviting Jesus to take the wheel. Still another, a horseback rider, uses the image of dropping the reins, which is what riders sometimes do when they are lost, trusting that the horse knows how to get home.
There’s a song written by folk singer Kate Campbell entitled “Jesus is the Way Home,” and it goes like this:
If you’re ever in the Richmond jail
With no one around to go your bail.
If you’ve lost your way, it might help to know.
Jesus is the way home.
If you’re trying to put that whiskey down
And you realize you’re losing ground.
You don’t have to walk that road alone.
Jesus is the way home.
You don’t have to worry where you’re at,
or why you’re there–He knows all that.
Just let the Good Book be your map.
Jesus is the Way home.’
The Scripture readings before us today were chosen in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated 51 years ago this week as he was leaving the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. King had gone to Memphis against the counsel of his closest advisors to be in solidarity with African American sanitation workers who were on strike, seeking better pay and working conditions. Knowing that he was under constant death threats at the time, his colleagues worried what would happen to King if he went to Memphis. His response to their concerns, which he articulated in the last sermon of his life, harkens back to Jesus’ story of a man wounded on the roadside. You may recall that three men passed by the wounded man. King noted that the first two asked, “If I stop to help him, what will happen to me?” The third man–who was, by race, the man’s enemy, asked a different question: “If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” King’s response to those worried for his safety was, “If I don’t go to Memphis, what will happen to the sanitation workers?”
The first Scripture passage before us, taken from the Book of Genesis, invites us to think of Dr. King in poignant comparison to the young Joseph who was resented by his brothers for his father’s favor and for his dreams: “Come, let us kill the dreamer,” they said, “and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
If King’s dream had been his own alone, it would have died with him. But his dream was, in fact, God’s dream taking up residence in him. The dream was of God’s justice, and that is a dream that can never die. It will be passed on from one generation to the next until it is fulfilled. We, like King, can dream God’s dream, align ourselves with God’s love, love most fully embodied in Jesus. To do so is the highest thing we can aspire to in this life, even if most of us live that love and that dream in relatively modest ways.
It is an amazing thing, to swept up by God’s dream, but It doesn’t make for an easy life. Jesus makes that very clear. Yet what a life it can be, one that moves us from superficialities to depth.
The brilliant author Toni Morrison gave a commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College a few years ago in which she told the graduates quite directly that she was not interested in their happiness. Then she said:
I want you to have happiness; you clearly deserve it. Everyone does. And I hope it continues, or comes, effortlessly, quickly, always. Still, I am not interested in it. Not yours, nor mine nor anybody’s. I don’t think we can afford it anymore. I don’t think it delivers the goods. Most important, it gets in the way of everything worth doing. . . I want to talk about the activity you were always warned against as being wasteful, impractical, hopeless. I want to talk about dreaming. (Morrison, Toni. The Source of Self-Regard (p. 69). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Having a dream can change the world–most especially when it is God’s dream living inside us.
Let me encourage you, then–those being confirmed, received and all reaffirming your vows–to open yourself to the particular expression of God’s dream that lives inside you, whatever that may be. It’s the dream that won’t die, no matter what happens. It’s the hope that won’t let you go; It’s the love that can move mountains.
Dr. King was no stranger to trials and tribulations. In the last two years of his life, his popularity had plummeted among blacks and whites; and in particular, a rising generation of young blacks had lost faith in non-violent resistance. He had experienced several humiliating public failures; he was struggling against his own demons of exhaustion and despair.
He called white Americans to task for our superficial commitments: “The great majority of white Americans are uneasy with injustice but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.” King also addressed the rising bitterness, anger, and calls for violent resistance among rising African American leaders, for which he had great sympathy: “I should have known,” he wrote,“that in an atmosphere where false promises are daily realities, where deferred dreams are nightly facts, where acts of unpunished violence toward Negroes are a way of life, nonviolence would eventually be seriously questioned.” (Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go From Here–Chaos or Community? (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966))
But he rejected violence as a strategy and a way of life. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
He was, to the end, a follower of Jesus, the one from God who went to his death unswayed in his commitment to love–even to love his enemies.
“I have decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens’ Councils in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love, for God is love. Love will have the last word.” (Where Do We Go From Here?)
May love be our last word, God’s word, God’s dream living in us.
I’d like to pray with you:
Gracious God, I hold before you these your beloved gathered here and pray your blessing upon them. May they know, may we all know, your desire to empower us with your love, inspire us with your dreams, and show us how to live and give us the strength and courage we need every day to follow Jesus in his way of love. Help us to remember that he is the source of our strength and the strength of our life, that he is our way home. May each one here feel the power of his presence and his love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.