Les he dicho estas cosas mientras estoy con ustedes. Pero el Espíritu Santo, a quien el Padre enviará en mi nombre, los consolará y les enseñará todas las cosas, y les recordará todo lo que yo les he dicho. La paz les dejo, mi paz les doy; yo no la doy como el mundo la da. No dejen que su corazón se turbe y tenga miedo.
Llevo casi dos años trabajando en un proyecto de escritura sobre los momentos decisivos de la vida en los que aprendemos a ser valientes. Me estoy acercando al final del primer borrador, y el tema sobre el que estoy escribiendo ahora es la perseverancia, lo cual es oportuno, dado lo lento que ha sido mi progreso. Más de una vez me he preguntado si tengo lo que hace falta para llevar a cabo esta esfuerzo hasta el final.
A menudo he pensado que la perseverancia es una virtud oculta, en el sentido de que rara vez vemos lo que otros han pasado para poder hacer lo que a nosotros nos parece que no supone ningún esfuerzo, lo que les cuesta seguir adelante cuando están cansados o desanimados, o volver a empezar después de un fracaso o una decepción. No hablamos con la suficiente frecuencia de lo que el empresario Scott Belsky describió como “The Messy Middle” (el medio desordenado), el tramo más difícil de cualquier esfuerzo creativo o inspirado en la fe.
“¿Qué hay en el medio?” pregunta Belsky. “Nada que merezca un titular, pero todo lo importante: la guerra con la duda, una montaña rusa de éxitos y fracasos en aumento, episodios de mundanidad y el puro anonimato. El medio rara vez se cuenta y todo se mezcla en un borrón de cansancio. . . El éxito se atribuye erróneamente a los momentos que deseamos recordar en lugar de los que elegimos olvidar. Nos quedamos con la idea errónea de que un viaje exitoso es lógico. Pero nunca lo es”.1
Hay un componente del corazón en la perseverancia, que Jesús enfatizó al enseñar a sus discípulos sobre la oración. Normalmente lo hacía contando historias escandalosas, como la de un hombre que seguía golpeando la puerta de la casa de un amigo en mitad de la noche exigiendo pan, y la de una viuda que acosaba incesantemente a un juez para que le hiciera justicia. Estos personajes no son santos, como para subrayar el hecho de que la perseverancia no tiene nada de visiblemente admirable; se parece más a las agallas y al esfuerzo tenaz. La razón por la que Jesús contó estas parábolas, según el Evangelio de Lucas, fue para animar a sus discípulos a orar continuamente y desanimarse (Lucas 18). Jesús sabía que la vida puede ser dura, que las decepciones son reales y que a veces todos nos sentimos desanimados.
Este domingo, en la iglesia, seguiremos leyendo la parte del Evangelio de Juan conocida como el discurso de despedida de Jesús (capítulos 14-17). La escena es la última cena de Jesús con sus discípulos, en la que les dice palabras de ánimo que espera que les ayuden a perseverar en la fe después de su partida. No se preocupen, les dice. Me voy, pero no estarán solos. Les dice que alguien más estará con ellos, a quien llama “el Abogado”, otro nombre para el Espíritu Santo. El Abogado les ayudará a recordar todo lo que Jesús enseñó y les dará su paz y su fuerza, incluso en los momentos más turbulentos. Estas son palabras a las que podemos aferrarnos, como garantía de que tampoco estamos solos y de que, en palabras del Apóstol, Aquel que comenzó una buena obra dentro y entre nosotros la llevará a término.
El personal diocesano dedicó dos días de esta semana a hacer un balance de los objetivos que establecimos para los primeros cuatro meses de 2022 y fijamos nuestra mirada en el trabajo de los próximos tres meses. Estas revisiones periódicas se han convertido en parte del ritmo de nuestro año, una práctica que nos ayuda a mantenernos centrados en los objetivos generales de cinco años a los que se comprometió la diócesis en 2020, mientras vivimos las contingencias y exigencias de nuestro trabajo diario. Más de una vez en los últimos tres años, todos nos hemos sentido desanimados y abrumados, y con el temor demasiado familiar de trabajar muy duro con poco para mostrar nuestros esfuerzos. Pero cada vez que hacemos una pausa y hacemos balance, nos damos cuenta de que hemos progresado, aunque nunca tan limpia o rápidamente como habíamos imaginado, y de que hemos aprendido cosas que influyen nuestros próximos pasos.
Estamos aprendiendo la importancia de celebrar nuestros logros, por pequeños que sean; de reflexionar en profundidad tanto sobre nuestros errores como sobre nuestras percepciones; y de abrirnos continuamente a la inspiración del Espíritu Santo. Y a medida que se acerca el verano, se nos recuerda que también es un tiempo para descansar, apoyar a nuestros líderes y saborear los momentos de alegría.
En un pequeño libro de ensayos que explora el significado más profundo de las palabras cotidianas, David Whyte define la valentía como “el aspecto que tiene el amor cuando es puesto a prueba por las simples necesidades cotidianas de estar vivo”.2 Lo mismo puede decirse de la perseverancia: es el compromiso diario de vivir como si la inspiración y los sueños que nos impulsaron fueran dignos de confianza, incluso cuando no lo sentimos, y de confiar en la obra lenta y constante de Dios.
1Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018), 7.
2David Whyte, Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, Kindle Version, 220.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’
For nearly two years I’ve been working on a writing project about the decisive moments in life when we learn to be brave. I’m nearing the end of the first draft, and the topic I’m writing about now is perseverance, which is timely, given how slow my progress has been. More than once I’ve wondered if I have what it takes to see this endeavor through to completion.
I’ve often thought of perseverance as a hidden virtue, in that we rarely see what others have gone through to be able to do what seems effortless to us, what it costs them to carry on when tired or discouraged or to start again after failure or disappointment. We don’t talk often enough about what the entrepreneur Scott Belsky described as “The Messy Middle” – the hardest stretch in any creative or faith-inspired endeavor.
“What’s in the middle?” Belsky asks. “Nothing headline-worthy yet everything important: your war with self-doubt, a roller coaster of incremental successes and failures, bouts of the mundane, and sheer anonymity. The middle is seldom recounted and all blends together in a blur of exhaustion. . . Success is misattributed to the moments we wish to remember rather than those we choose to forget. We’re left with the misconception that a successful journey is logical. But it never is.1
There is a heart component to perseverance, which Jesus emphasized when teaching his disciples about prayer. He typically did so by telling outrageous stories, such as the one about a man who kept pounding on the door of a friend’s house in the middle of the night demanding bread, and of a widow who incessantly hounded a judge for the justice she deserved. These characters are hardly saints, as if to underscore that fact there is nothing visibly admirable about perseverance; it’s more akin to grit and dogged effort. The reason Jesus told these parables, according to the Gospel of Luke, was to encourage his disciples to pray continually and not lose heart. (Luke 18) Jesus knew that life can be hard, disappointments are real, and at times we’re all bound to feel discouraged.
In church this Sunday, we’ll continue reading from the portion of John’s Gospel known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (chapters 14-17). The scene here is Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, where he speaks words of encouragement that he hopes will help them persevere in faith after he’s gone. Don’t worry, he tells them. I’m leaving, but you won’t be alone. He tells them that someone else will be with them, whom he calls “the Advocate”–another name for the Holy Spirit. The Advocate will help them remember all that Jesus taught and give them his peace and strength, even in the most turbulent times. These are words we can hold onto, as reassurance that we’re not alone, either, and that, in the words of the Apostle, the One who began a good work within and among us will see it through to completion.
Your diocesan staff spent two days this week taking stock of the incremental goals we set for the first four months of 2022 and setting our sights on the next three months’ work. It has become part of the rhythm of our year to have these regular check-ins, a practice that helps us stay focused on the overarching five-year goals the diocese committed to in 2020 as we live through the contingencies and demands of our daily work. More than once in the last three years, we’ve all felt discouraged and overwhelmed, and the all-too familiar dread of working really hard with little to show for our efforts. But each time we pause and take stock, we realize that we have made progress, although never as cleanly or quickly as we had imagined, and that we’ve learned things that inform our next steps.
We’re learning the importance of celebrating our accomplishments, no matter how small; reflecting deeply on both our missteps and insights; and continually opening ourselves to the Holy’s Spirit’s inspiration. And as the summer approaches, we’re reminded that this is also a time to rest, support our leaders, and savor moments of joy.
In a small book of essays exploring the deeper meaning of everyday words, David Whyte defines courage as “what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.”2 The same is surely true of perseverance–it is the daily commitment to live as if the inspiration and dreams that propelled us are trustworthy, even when we don’t feel it, and to trust the slow, steady work of God.
1Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018), 7.
2David Whyte, Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, Kindle Version, 220.
Durante 400 años, los estadounidenses han luchado con nuestro pecado original del racismo y la falsa doctrina de la supremacía blanca. El pago de ese pecado ha sido soportado por generaciones de afroamericanos esclavizados; por Emmet Till y Medgar Evers y el Dr. Martin Luther King; por los mártires de la Madre Emanuel; por Trayvon Martin, George Floyd y Breonna Taylor; y un sinnúmero de otros conocidos sólo por Dios.
Ese legado nos persigue todavía, cuando nos enfrentamos a otra matanza, esta vez a manos de un hombre blanco en un barrio negro de Buffalo, N.Y. Cada vez que se pierde una vida por la ideología asesina del racismo, perdemos un poco de nuestra alma, y esa violencia alimentada por el odio aflige el mismo corazón de Dios.
Cada una de las 13 víctimas del tiroteo es un hijo amado de Dios y sufrimos con las familias de los 10 que murieron. Nuestros corazones y nuestras oraciones están con los que están de luto en Buffalo.
El pistolero de 18 años de Buffalo no vino a este mundo albergando odio en su corazón hacia los negros. El desprecio necesita ser enseñado, alimentado y sostenido. Si somos honestos, debemos reconocer que la tierra que da raíz a ese odio sigue siendo cultivada en esta nación.
Este hombre encontró una cámara de eco sádica en Internet, amplificada por grupos extremistas marginales a los que personalidades de los medios de comunicación, políticos y, sí, algunos líderes religiosos, han concedido un barniz de legitimidad. Llegó a la mayoría de edad en un país en el que los políticos hacen una reverencia ante una antecámara de las armas que ha convertido el fácil acceso a las armas de guerra casi en un sacramento de nuestra religión civil. Aquí en Washington, D.C., una docena de personas han sido asesinadas sólo en las dos primeras semanas de mayo, y la mitad de las muertes por armas de fuego son el resultado de personas desesperadas que se quitan la vida.
Incluso cuando nuestras calles están inundadas de armas, cuando se produce el inevitable tiroteo masivo o cuando una joven madre es abatida mientras pasea a su bebé, nos preguntamos cómo ha podido ocurrir?
En Buffalo, el fácil acceso a las armas de tipo militar se combinó con la ideología extremista para producir un acto de terrorismo doméstico. El manifiesto asesino del pistolero surgió de una retorcida creencia de que los blancos están siendo intencionalmente “reemplazados”. Pero hablemos de lo que realmente está siendo reemplazado en nuestra nación.
Nuestros espacios seguros–nuestras tiendas de comestibles, cines, aulas y, sí, incluso nuestros santuarios–están siendo sustituidos por escenarios de crímenes donde se derrama sangre inocente y las familias quedan destrozadas para siempre.
Nuestro contrato social–construido sobre la idea del respeto mutuo y una comprensión común de los hechos- está siendo sustituido por ideas peligrosas y delirantes a las que se permite prosperar sin penalización ni consecuencia alguna.
Como personas de fe, estamos llamados a sustituir el odio por el amor.
Hace casi 60 años, tras un atroz acto de terrorismo doméstico en la Iglesia Bautista de la Calle 16 de Birmingham, el Dr. King elogió a las cuatro jóvenes negras que murieron en el atentado: “Con su muerte, nos dicen a todos, blancos y negros por igual, que debemos sustituir la precaución por el valor. Nos dice que debemos preocuparnos no sólo por quién las asesinó, sino por el sistema, el modo de vida, la filosofía que produjo a los asesinos”.
Las víctimas de Buffalo también hablan. Que Dios nos conceda oídos para escuchar, ojos para ver y corazones para actuar.
La Reverendísima Mariann Edgar Budde
Obispa de Washington
El Muy Reverendo Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Deán de la Catedral Nacional de Washington
For 400 years, Americans have wrestled with our original sin of racism and the false doctrine of white supremacy. The wages of that sin have been borne by generations of enslaved African Americans; by Emmet Till and Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King; by the martyrs of Mother Emanuel; by Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; and countless others known only to God.
That legacy haunts us still, as we confront yet another slaughter, this time at the hands of a white man in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. Every time a life is lost to the murderous ideology of racism, we lose a bit of our soul, and such hate-fueled violence grieves the very heart of God.
Each of the 13 shooting victims is a beloved child of God and we grieve with the families of the 10 who died. Our hearts and our prayers are with those who are mourning in Buffalo.
The 18-year-old gunman in Buffalo did not come into this world harboring hatred in his heart toward Black people. Contempt needs to be taught, nourished and sustained. If we are honest, we must acknowledge that the soil that gives root to such hatred is still being tended in this nation.
This man found a sadistic echo chamber online, amplified by fringe extremist groups that have been granted a veneer of legitimacy by media personalities, politicians and, yes, some religious leaders. He came of age in a country where politicians genuflect to a gun lobby that has made easy access to weapons of war a near sacrament of our civil religion. Here in Washington, D.C., a dozen people have been killed just in the first two weeks of May, and half of all gun deaths are the result of desperate people taking their own lives.
Even as our streets are awash in guns, when the inevitable mass shooting occurs or when a young mother is gunned down while walking her baby, we ask ourselves how this could happen.
In Buffalo, easy access to military-style weapons combined with extremist ideology to produce an act of domestic terrorism. The gunman’s murderous manifesto grew out of a twisted belief that white people are being intentionally “replaced.” But let’s talk about what’s really being replaced in our nation.
Our safe spaces – our grocery stores, movie theaters, classrooms, and yes, even our sanctuaries – are being replaced with crime scenes where innocent blood is shed and families are forever shattered.
Our social contract – built on the idea of mutual respect and a common understanding of fact – is being replaced by dangerous and delusional ideas that are allowed to flourish without penalty or consequence.
As people of faith, we are called to replace hatred with love.
Nearly 60 years ago, after a heinous act of domestic terrorism at Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Dr. King eulogized the four young Black girls who were killed in the bombing: “In their death, they say to all of us, Black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
The victims of Buffalo are speaking, too. May God grant us ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to act.
The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean of Washington National Cathedral
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. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I’d like to reflect upon a dimension of the spiritual life that we don’t discuss enough, and that is the arc of it, and the ebb and flow of our feelings, as we make our way in this world as a person of faith, and in particular, a follower of Jesus.
Let me begin by telling you of a time when as a young adult–in my mid-twenties–I had what felt at the time to be an important decision to make. It wasn’t a life-changing decision, but a big enough deal that I wanted to get it right. Incidentally, I had already come to the decisions that those being confirmed are making today. I knew that I was a Christian and dedicated my life to following Jesus. In fact, I was in seminary, studying to be a priest. So I was all in, as they say, when it comes to faith, and I was praying about this decision, too, and for days I wrestled with the options, feeling genuinely torn. It was an uncomfortable time, and not an unfamiliar one. I struggled a lot with decisions back then, and in many ways still do. I’m prone to second-guessing myself, making quick decisions and immediately regretting them, going back and forth, wishing that some lightbulb would go off in my head and just settle things.
So back then I went for a swim at a nearby recreation center with this quandary on my mind. Somewhere in the midst of doing laps, the lightbulb went off. Clarity came, washing over me like the water I was swimming through. It felt like a gift from God, lifting me out of the indecisive state I had worked myself into. I knew exactly what to do and I knew why. Energized, I picked up the pace and finished my workout as if competing for Olympic gold. But no sooner had I stepped out of the water and began to dry off when the familiar feelings of uncertainty returned, completely overtaking the confidence I experienced just moments before.
The first thought I had was something like, Really–are you kidding me? Then, thankfully, I burst out laughing–mostly at myself for the way I was stressing over that one decision. That’s when it dawned on me that my feelings of uncertainty, and then certainty, and uncertainty again were just that–they were feelings that come and go. At the same time, I still had the decision to make, and I realized I now had another choice: I could either trust the clarity that came while I swam or go with the rush of doubt that followed. In an act of faith, I chose to trust my experience in the water. I remember praying, “Lord, I’m going to trust this is from you and act on it.”
Let me say again that what I was dealing with at the time wasn’t, in the end, that big of a deal, but the decision to trust the gift of clarity when it came to me, even after it left and I no longer felt it, has helped me more times than I can count when the stakes were higher. It’s drawn me closer to God, because in those times, I walk by faith and do my best to keep going, even when the confidence I felt in a given moment fades away.
What I hope you take away from this story is simply this: how you feel or don’t feel on a given day about God and the importance of God in your life; and what you may or may not believe in the sense of having complete confidence that something is true–these things come and go. But what you will have–and most certainly already have had–are moments like what happened to me in the pool when you feel something, when clarity or insight or an experience that you cannot explain rationally is given to you as a gift. Sometimes it will be strong and clear enough to see you through all the times of struggle and uncertainty that follow. Sometimes it may seem to disappear completely, but that’s when the life of faith becomes real, when you decide to trust the experience, in all its plausible deniability.
Now I’m not saying that every experience of seeming clarity or insight that comes from you is of God–that would be dangerous. They need to be tested in some way. Here is what I’ve learned about them, and how to sort through the ones that are trustworthy from the ones that aren’t–and believe me, I don’t always get this right.
If the experience is of God, the feelings that accompany it are those of love and acceptance–total acceptance of who you are and what you’re going through. If it feels otherwise–as if harsh, mean-spirited or unforgiving–that’s to be rejected (think of that later in the service when I ask you about renouncing forces of evil). It will almost always be the path requiring greater courage, unless what God is trying to say to you is that you need to slow down and not try so hard to make things right on your own. Every once in a while the word or insight that comes to us requires a really dramatic response–but not always, and I daresay, not often, and they generally occur in situations of acute crisis.
One example from my life: two years ago, at what was then the most acute and frightening stage of the covid pandemic before there were vaccines and a lot of people were dying, we had just settled my mom into an assisted living apartment. It promised to be a really good place for her as she recovered from a life-altering surgery and the sudden loss of all her independence. But then her facility had to shut everything down that made life worth living there, and she was quarantined in her room. I couldn’t see her and she couldn’t leave. My husband was away; and I had no way to care for her on my own, but one morning I woke up and knew as clearly as I knew my own name that I had to get her out of there. And I did, and she lived with us for over a year. Were there times afterwards when I wondered if I had made the right decision? Of course. But I had to trust that it was the right thing to do and just do it.
Do you hear what I’m saying: The life of faith is less about the words we say in church–although I’ll get to those in a minute–and more with how we live our lives in a spirit of trust. Can we trust that God is real? Can we believe that the person of Jesus, who lived, taught, healed, upended his society with a message of radical love and justice for the poor and was killed for it, and then was raised by God so that his death was not evidence of failure but an expression of how God’s love cannot be defeated even in death, and whose living presence is with those who choose to follow him, is one to be trusted as a personal Savior, friend, and the way that God reaches us now? The ways we know this isn’t so much as we come to accept or even understand what Christians through the ages have said or wrote about him, but rather how we experience him, and the elusive Spirit of God, in those moments, as the black theologian Thurgood Marshall wrote years ago, when our backs are against the wall.
Now let me say something about all the in-between time, when those moments of clarity or spiritual connection fade or seem far off, when life is more routine, and we’re busy, juggling multiple things at once and tempted to spend way too much time on mindless activities, and nothing seems particularly dramatic or exciting.
These are also spiritual moments, when God, and for Christians, in the person of Jesus, is with us; but the experience isn’t one of an adrenaline rush. It’s quieter, and we need to pay more attention to the little things–the bits of grace and goodness that are all around us, the opportunities we have to make a small difference in the life of another, or to do something good even when no one is watching, or to go deeper in our understanding or knowledge of God through reading one of the gospels that tell of Jesus’ life, or joining a prayer group, or getting involved in a work of justice, or giving some of your money away so that someone else might breathe easier as a result.
This is the work of aligning our lives to what we know matters most, but that gets so easily crowded out by all that’s swirling in and around us. It’s how we learn to hear the voice of Jesus when he speaks really softly, and we become the kind of people that other people recognize as Christians, as a song I used to sing in Youth Group goes, by our love.
So let me leave you with a few phrases from our Scripture texts today that can guide you in all those other times when we’re doing our best to live as if the powerful moments of grace and insight are real, but we don’t feel them as strongly anymore. Consider them a way of orienting your life, or patterning it, on the life of Jesus, who came not only to reveal God in human form, but also to teach us how to live as the children of God that we are.
In the passages from the Acts of the Apostles we heard about what happened to one of Jesus’ disciples after the resurrection. Simon Peter has one of those powerful, life-changing realizations and he says: “I truly understand now that God shows no partiality.” Take that in for a moment, and imagine what it would look like for us to live our lives as if that one statement were true, if we truly understood that God doesn’t play favorites. God doesn’t see one person, or group at school, or neighborhood, or political party, or religious affiliation as more worthy than another. God doesn’t divide humankind the way that we do. What might that mean for us and how we live?
Now, hear Jesus speaking, as the Gospel of John imagines him as he is saying goodbye to his disciples on the night before his death. These are his parting words, what he wants them most to remember when they are feeling discouraged and alone. After I’m gone, he tells them, I need you to love one another as I have loved you. That’s it. That’s what he wanted, and still wants, all those who take on the mantle of Christian to do–to love as he loves, and specifically, to love others as we have been loved by him.
It’s something to think about when we don’t know what to do next–we could reach out in love to another person.
Which brings me back to what I tried to describe at the beginning–what it feels like when we experience something of that love, that assurance that we’re not alone, that we are being led, and inspired, by a presence we can never fully explain or understand, but that we are willing to trust and follow. As we do, we find ourselves becoming more of ourselves, and able to do brave things, and yes, to love others with a generosity of spirit that we didn’t know we had. I’m not saying that we do this all the time, and that we always get it right, because we don’t–and I’ll save that conversation for another time.
For now, I pray that this day, and the prayers that Bishop Shand and I have the privilege of offering on your behalf, will be occasions of real grace and love that you feel and trust. Then may you go from this church and live your life with as much courage and love as you can.