Thursday, April 01, 2021

Longing for Belonging

 Sermon reached on Maundy Thursday for St. Thomas' Church, Bath, NY.

          It is ironic, if not cruel, for Maundy Thursday to fall on April Fool’s Day this year. This is our second Maundy Thursday in a row when we are not able to celebrate the Eucharist—the very gift—the precious gift—that Jesus gave us this night.  I pray fervently that the anticipation of us soon being able to come back together and obey the command to “Do this in remembrance of me” is no cruel joke.

          Some have called this a fast, although I confess on a personal level to having trouble with that characterization.  If it has worked for you, by all means hold on to it.  But I’ll confess it hasn’t worked for me.  What I have felt is more akin to sacramental starvation that has kept my spiritual life in a profound disorientation.

          Why is this so? I have been grappling with that question for a year now. Why can’t I get past it? Why has not participating in the Eucharist been so difficult for me?

          I can only tell my story to explain it. Three short vignettes. Think of them as scenes in a play.

Scene 1

          A 16-year-old boy who has had almost no experience of the church is drafted to take a part in the musical Godspell. It profoundly affects him—he’s heard the Gospel for the first time.  He has been a sad and sometimes angry young man for the previous six years, ever since his beloved grandmother died of cancer at a very young age. He’s also been carrying around a troubling sense of difference that he is sure threatens everything he holds dear. The message he has heard in the musical has something to do with his experience of loss and fear, but he can’t quite fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

          His great Aunt Ann, a member of St. Thomas’, invites him to church. He goes and is captivated, and when it comes time to receive Communion his Aunt invites him to go to the Altar with her. Even today he remembers the smell of the wine. He doesn’t leave with any answers to the questions he has been carrying around.  But that trip to the Altar rail and his being given Communion even though these people didn’t know him at all leaves him sure that the answers are there. He felt like he belonged even though he didn’t belong.

Scene 2

          A young man goes off to college. Of all things to do when you taste the first freedom of being on your own, he decides to start attending church.  He goes to the Episcopal Church in downtown Plattsburgh—Trinity is its name. Again, there is that mysterious sense of belonging and he keeps going, even starts singing in the choir. His first Lent in college he goes every day to the Eucharist, sometimes being the only person there beside the priest.

          At the same time, he has become involved with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship on campus. He makes some friends there and enjoys it. The group has an evangelical outlook that increasingly becomes fundamentalist.  The old fear rises in his heart again. He becomes part of the leadership, but soon discovers his sacramental experience and his evangelical experience come into conflict. He is open about it and stunned when he receives no consolation, but a judgment. You must choose one or the other. The Episcopal Church and the “real truth” of Christianity cannot be reconciled. He chooses The Episcopal Church, primarily because he cannot imagine worshipping God and being a Christian in the world without the Eucharist.

Scene 3

          At 29 years old the man is now an Episcopal priest.  He came out as gay long ago, throwing off that fear, or, at least most of it.  In a few more years he will become the national president of Integrity, the fellowship and advocacy group for LGBT Episcopalians. He will travel a lot in this ministry, giving witness to the call to the church for the full inclusion of folk like him. He will often come home bone-tired and weary, sometimes, as well, discouraged. Coming back from one particularly disastrous occasion, thinking all was lost and perhaps he could not continue in this church, he was saved by the Altar he came home to, the comfort and promise of the Eucharist and the people with whom he celebrated. There he belonged, despite the fact that some didn’t want him to belong.

          Those are little glimpses of my story. They help me understand the devastation I have felt at being separated from the Altar—what we do around it, who we are around it, and what it feeds us to do in the world.

          I hope my stories stirred up your own stories, my longings, your longings.  The day is coming when we can renew the love that is formed over and over again around the Table of Jesus’ feast. Until then, I ask you to join me in this lament for the Eucharist, an expression of our longing.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A Broken Heart Leads to Newness

 Sermon preached at St. Thomas' Church, Bath, NY:  Jeremiah 31:31-24, Psalm 119:9-19. John 12:20-33.

You can listen to this sermon here.

          Of all the biblical prophets, Jeremiah is described universally as “the gloomy” one.  Jeremiah the Gloomy.  There is reason for his gloominess, of course.  Jeremiah’s time was a time of political and spiritual crisis.  The Babylonian Empire to the north and west was in the process of destroying what was left of Israel, the people killed, deported, or left behind in a land bereft of resources. Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple destroyed.  The kingdom of Judah wiped off the map.

           And where was Israel’s God?  Absent?  Vengeful?  Defeated?

Jeremiah finds those questions about God to be a deflection. He constantly brings the people back to the overwhelming problem:  themselves.  You have done this. You have brought this upon yourselves.  For thirty long chapters, Jeremiah has sounded this message, and the word “gloomy” may not be strong enough.  Here he is in chapter 30:

 Thus says the Lord:

Your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous.

There is no one to uphold your case,

          no medicine for your wound, no healing for you.

All your lovers have forgotten you;

          they care nothing for you.

Why do you cry out over your hurt?

Your pain is incurable.

Because your guilt is great,

          because your sin is so numerous,

          I have done these things to you.

           And then comes the dreaded word “therefore,” which in the prophets means the worst judgment is about to come.

           And then it doesn’t.


Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured.

Those who plunder you shall be plundered.

For I will restore health to you,

          and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord,

          because they have called you an outcast:

          [they have said]

          “It is Zion; no one cares for her.”

           It is biblical whiplash.

           What has changed?  Certainly not Israel.  No, it is rather Israel’s God who has changed.

           The absent one will now intervene.

          The vengeful one will now be the compassionate one.

          The defeated one will pull his last weapon out of the divine armory:  the covenant.

           And so we hear this morning: 

 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

           Covenant?  Now there’s a word that quite possibly had not been heard in Israel for a very long time.  Why?  Because you broke it, God says, “even though I was your husband.”  You let go of me, God says, even though I did not—could not—let go of you. But I am going to put that behind me, God says, I am willing to try something new.

          And just what will be new?  New laws?  No, still “my laws,” says God, but given in a new way.  Laws written on the heart.  And perhaps it is critical that the heart of Israel on which the law will be written is Israel’s broken heart.  Remember words from Ash Wednesday, from Psalm 51:

 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

          a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

          I can work with a broken heart, God says.  My heart, too, has been broken.  You broke it.  But our broken hearts, softened with grief, can be a place in which we can start over again.

          This will be a place of equality.  We will start over again from broken religion, where self-appointed experts throw their weight around, saying you do not know the Lord.  I will decide, they have kept telling you, I will tell you when and how you will know the Lord.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

What's Love Got to Do with It?

 It’s Valentine’s Day and I am wondering about the future of love.

 At the grocery store yesterday, one might say the future of love was on display. Dozens and dozens of roses and other flowers, to be bought to express love.  I bought some myself.  Perhaps it is true, those flowers say, that love between individuals is as strong as it has ever been.

 But that is not the kind of love I am wondering about this afternoon.

 I’m not saying anything is wrong with that kind of love—the love that exists between individuals, within families and across friendships.  I know that kind of love, and I can say without being overly sentimental that love has in the past formed who I am and even saved me.  It, in truth, continues to do so.

 But, again, that is not the kind of love I am wondering about today.  Although my wondering also includes Tina Turner’s immortal question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

 I am wondering about love that will save, but the kind of love that will not only save me but will save us.

 We seem stuck in our country, fellow citizens not only unable to agree on much, but also unable to talk to each other or respect one another.  It seems that we cannot even agree on just who is worthy of being called a fellow citizen, who, even, gets to decide just who a citizen is and who is not.

 “Friending” and “unfriending” on Facebook seems to express the dynamics of our relationship to one another, especially when it is a choice, as it often is, of who I will listen to and who I will not listen to.

 I am wondering about the kind of love that is strong enough to break through that “life as choosing up sides” model.  There is nothing easy about this kind of love.  I myself have said in the past, “It is not worth my time even trying to talk to those people.”  As a Christian I know that saying such a thing is simply sin, even though it might feel entirely justified at the time.  I am a follower of Jesus whose most basic teaching was to love God with everything I have and my neighbor as myself. And I know, try as I might, I cannot finesse “neighbor” to mean anything other than the next person who crosses my path.

 I think the fundamental building block for this kind of love is respect, although even this word has come to mean “agree with.”  So there is something deeper, and it is a kind of bottom-line belief, without which society cannot be stable, much less functional.  That is the belief in the dignity of every person, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

 The love that will save us starts there:  your dignity and mine on the same level without reservation.

 There is nothing easy about this belief.  I think that has always been true; it certainly is true in our day.  The love that is required for me to live out this belief is sacrificial in nature.  To respect your dignity above all other things means I must sacrifice my natural tendency to judge you, to make decisions about your worth.  I know for myself that it can be painful to make this sacrifice, so painful that I often choose not to do it.

 To respect your dignity, to love you in this way, does not mean to agree with you.  It is not some utopian vision of social uniformity.  That we will disagree—and sometimes strongly so—is a given.

 The question is can I disagree with you without cutting you out of my life, refusing to listen to you, resort to my most base instincts to call you stupid, or a fool, or, in citizenship terms, unpatriotic or even traitorous.  Can I hold some very strong beliefs about what is best for the world and still be willing to listen to your equally held strong beliefs.  Of course, listening must always be a two-way street.

 A lot of rhetoric gets thrown around these days about whether if we follow any given path we will have a country or not.

 I’m wondering about love today—the belief in universal human dignity—and I’m thinking without it all our dire predictions will come true.

 What’s love got to do with it?  Everything or nothing.  It’s our choice.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Resentment or Reconciliation

 Sermon preached on January 17, 2021, the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany at St. Thomas' Church, Bath:  1 Samuel 3:1-17.

You can listen to the sermon here.

          As the prophet Samuel was growing up, the world around him was falling apart.  There had been a series of people called judges who—with varying degrees of success—held Israel loosely together: people like Deborah and Gideon and Samson.  But Israel was descending into anarchy—social and religious.

          Samuel was born by God’s intervention in the life of a woman named Hannah, who, with her husband Elkanah, had been unable to conceive a child.  Whenever a miraculous birth happens in the Bible, you know God is up to something major. 

          The boy Samuel was being raised by the priest Eli.  At the beginning of today’s story, we are told two things which reflect the chaos in Israel.  First, “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days.”  Israel’s relationship with God was on the verge of total collapse.  No one listened for God anymore, and when no one is listening it appears that God is not speaking.  Second, we are told “visions were not widespread.”  There was no one speaking words and images of hope, no one opening up a fruitful future for Israel.

          In summary, there was no faith to sustain Israel in the present, and no hope to guide her into the future.  And when there is no faith and no hope, there is little love, little caring for the neighbor.

          Samuel would grow up to be Israel’s first great prophet.  His whole exchange with Eli as a boy was a signal that God was giving the priests a back seat and bringing prophets to the fore.  At the same time, the days of judges ruling Israel was coming to a close.  Soon Israel would be ruled by kings.  God was doing a new thing, intervening to bring Israel back to God.

          Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Dr. King’s last book was published less than a year before he was murdered. It was entitled, Where Do We Go from Here?  Chaos or Community.  It was a diagnosis of where the civil rights movement was and where it was going, but not on its own.  His bigger question was:  Where are we going as both Americans and as world citizens.

          He warned that America was losing its soul.  Three soul-killers held sway in America. One was racism that was so engrained in the American way of life that the vast majority of white people could not see it.  The second was racism’s evil twin, poverty.  The third was militarism, the dependence on violence to solve problems, which he saw as not only infecting the country, but the civil rights movement itself.

          Of the three, poverty driven by materialism was the most seductive because it seemed a positive thing. Who could be opposed to the the growth of wealth.  Of course, it was not growth for everyone, something that is still the truth, perhaps even more so.  Dr. King wrote, “Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul.”  And the growth of the soul most needed was the capacity to love and the commitment to live in beloved community.  He closed the book speaking of “the fierce urgency of now.” He said,

Let us hope that this spirit [of love] will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation.

I would add one word. I would say: We can no longer afford to bow before the altar of resentment and retaliation.

          Did we heed Dr. King’s call?  On the one hand, yes, we have made great progress. On the other hand, no.  While progress was being made over the past fifty years, a culture of resentment was also flourishing.  We saw that culture boil over into retaliation—violence—on January 6th.

          Where has the church been over these fifty years?  Part of it (including The Episcopal Church) has been trying to aid the progress, although this has caused such fierce internal fighting that we are left greatly weakened and afraid for the future.  Another part of it has been providing fuel for the fire, casting God in the role of an American patriot whose primary purpose is to vanquish his enemies.

          As these two movements within the church have been going on, there has been another movement, the rise of the “nones,” those who will have nothing to do with any form of the church, which they see as doing more harm than good. It is hard, overall, to argue with them.  Throw in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal throughout the church, and we have to admit that we have a massive credibility problem.

          I think we are in a place much like that of ancient Israel as Samuel was growing up.  Because the church is either afraid or so caught in a particular political ideology, the Word of the Lord is rare in our days.  And we are not offering much of a vision for the future.  This is not to say that we are not saying good things and doing good things. We are.  But few are listening anymore.  And because few are listening, it is as if we are saying nothing at all.

          Despite all this, I still believe the church has a vital role to play in our society.  We must commit ourselves to doing our own soul work and inviting others to do theirs, offering our soul story, and the things we have known to be soul nourishing.  And we need to find ways to do so that people can hear.

          What do I mean by “doing our own soul work”?  I mean getting clear about two “r’s” to counter the culture of resentment and retaliation.  We must be about creating a culture of reconciliation and relationship.

          We must do that work internally, because even in the progressive church we do not all agree and we have a tendency not to talk about those disagreements, and what ends up happening is those who sense they are in the minority drift away, and those of us in the majority either feel sad about that but don’t know how to fix it or we are glad to see those disagreeable people go.

          We can only lead doing this work in the culture around us if we have done it ourselves among ourselves.

          If we did do that work, our own soul work, here’s a vision.  Imagine the mainline churches of Bath and the evangelical churches of Bath sitting down and talking to each other, not seeking one another’s conversion, but seeking relationship with each other even if we profoundly disagree.

          Not possible?  Perhaps not.  But I am reminded by what G.K. Chesterton said of Christianity, that it has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  What if we took the risk and asked the question:  What would it look like if across our deep divide we were still in relationship with each other?  Do we dare risk trying to find out?

          As I said, we live in a time not so unlike that of Samuel.  It’s a time when the Word of God is, if not rare, at least so confused that the majority of people have stopped listening.  It’s a time when community is falling apart, in many respects it has already fallen apart.

          What if we invited, pleaded with God to do a new thing?  And what if we—like Hannah and Samuel and even Eli, signed on, and said, “Here I am.” Here we are. In the words of today’s Collect: “Let us shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory.”

Saturday, December 26, 2020

God With Us, Us With God

 Sermon preached on Christmas Day at St. Thomas' Church, Bath, NY (via Zoom).

You can listen to the sermon here.

Last Sunday with the children we told the whole story of Christmas, the story that makes up the entirety of first two chapters of Luke.  If you’ve never read those two chapters in one sitting, as one story, I invite you to do so.

It is the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist, the story of Mary and the angel Gabriel and of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the story of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds, the story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple and of the greeting of Simeon and Anna there, and finally the tale of Jesus as a boy in the temple.

It is an extraordinary tale of visitations by angels that turn people’s worlds upside down, of miraculous births, of daring dreams proclaimed has having come true, and of the Holy Spirit dancing through people’s lives, making the ordinary into the extraordinary.

I think the pivotal line in the whole story is uttered by the angel Gabriel to Mary. After Mary says “Yes,” Gabriel tells her that something equally wondrous has happened to her relative Elizabeth. She is also with child, despite her old age, and the angel proclaims in his last words before leaving Mary:  “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

As a student of writing, I had drilled into me the importance of prepositions.  “When you use a preposition, make sure it says what you mean it to say,” was the advice I was given over and over. Prepositions are slippery things, their meaning can be varied. It’s true in English and even more true in the Greek of the New Testament.

Gabriel says, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”  With God. Now “with” in both English and Greek can mean at least two different things.  It can mean the same as the preposition “for,” and some English translations have Gabriel saying, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Something about that seems right.  It is why we frequently call God “Almighty.”

But “with” can also mean “alongside of,” as in “I went with John to the grocery store.”  What if that is how we are to take this “with” from the lips of Gabriel?  Nothing will be impossible alongside of God, together with God.

It is tempting to read these stories about the intervention of God in folks lives and understand them to be examples of the kinds of things that can happen when God takes over a situation and does things “for,” or even “to,” people.

But these stories about the births of John the Baptist and Jesus may not simply be stories about God doing something “to” people or “for” people.  They are stories of God doing something “with” people.  As I read these stories, I get a strong sense that these stories tell us that in order to act in these situations God needed the cooperation of the human characters.

God, for instance, needs Mary. God needs her cooperation. God needs from her something he doesn’t have—human flesh and human freedom, the freedom to participate or not, the freedom to love or not, the freedom to hope or not.

 It is easy for us to say that the world is in such a mess that only God can save it.  Well, no, actually, Luke says in these stories.  The world is in such a mess that only God and humanity, the Creator with the creature, can save it together, by their companionship in faith, hope, and love.

It is this very cooperation and companionship that God desires with us, for we are not fundamentally different from the characters in these stories nor is the desire of God with us any different than it was with them.  The desire is for a partnership of grace, that can bring new things out of old, change the world, raise us up to sing Mary’s song about herself and her world about ourselves and our world.

     From this day all generations will call me blessed, she sings.  It is the song of a woman who is confident that God has called her to be a partner in a great work of God.

     What does this mean in our lives today?  It is only through partnership with God and with one another that we will get through the mess of this world, be it the mess of COVID-19 or the mess of a society so divided we cannot even speak with those who differ from us.

One might say we are in a time when the simple preposition “with” is the only thing that can change our world.

One thing that gets said over and over again in these stories is when angels appear the first thing they say is, “Do not be afraid.”  Do not be afraid Zechariah.  Do not be afraid Mary. Do not be afraid shepherds.

          It happens that the primary key to cooperation with God, and also with one another, is the ability to cast aside fear.  And we can only “not be afraid” together.  It is almost impossible “not to be afraid” alone.

This is what the Christmas message is all about—a new partnership formed with us and God, the result of which is the end of fear, and the fulfillment of the angels’ song:  Glory with God, peace with us.

          In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is told by an angel (after he is told, “Do not be afraid!”) that Mary’s child will be called “Emmanuel,” which, we are told, means “God with us.”  That’s the message of Christmas: God is with us.  But that is only half the message.

          God is with us and we are called to be with God and with one another. That’s the only way we can live without fear.

          That is the simple message of Christmas:  God is with us and we are with God, and only in that relationship can we hope to change the world.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 Sermon preached via Zoom at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, Bath on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost:  Psalm 123, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

You can listen to this sermon here.

          Sometimes when you read or listen to Scripture, a single word will pop out and strike you.  Often it fades quickly, but sometimes it attaches itself to you and becomes like an itch that no amount of scratching will get rid of.

           So, then you must pay attention and wonder, “What is going on here?  What does God wish to say in this word?”

           This happened to me a couple weeks ago when I first read through the readings for this morning.  The word was in the psalm for today, and the word was “until.”

           Psalm 123 is a prayer:

To you I lift up my eyes,
    to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
    and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    until he show us his mercy.

           “Until God shows us mercy.”

           “Until.”  It is a word about waiting, about anticipation and wonder.  It can have many different emotions attached to it:  longing, eagerness, urgency, anxiety, fear, exasperation, impatience.  There is often attached to it one of the most human of questions, “How long?  How long, O Lord, how long?”

           The longing of the writer of the prayer that is Psalm 123 is the longing for mercy, a longing for God to forgive and to act to make things right.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt,
Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
    and of the derision of the proud.

           The writer of the prayer certainly knows the fundamental truth—so basic to the Old Testament—that Israel’s God is a God of mercy.  It is creedal in the Old Testament:

 The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  (Exodus 34:6; also Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 145:8, Jonah 4:2)

           The writer knows the promise of God’s mercy, but also knows the “until,” the waiting, the longing that sometimes breaks out into lament. “Why, O Lord, do you not act?”

           The writer is in the time of “until,” waiting for a time of equal and life-giving relationships. He or she is tired—as we often are in the time of “until”—tired of the contempt of those who live an easy life, who, unlike God, know nothing of mercy, because they think they have no need of it.

           We are living in a time of “until.”  There has been the “until” an election that has brought most of us into high anxiety has been settled.  More then that, we are living in the “until” of the COVID-19 virus and the grip it has on our lives.  One of the psalmists knew this “until” also, in the first verse of Psalm 57, which has come to be important to me over the past six months.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,
    for I have taken refuge in you;
in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge,
    until this time of trouble has gone by.

           The Bible does not have an antidote to the experience of “until.”  It does not have a formula we can follow to avoid the “until.”  There is no avoiding the “until.”  There is no escaping the “until.”

           We only have a promise and a Companion.  The promise is that God will have his way with the until and our task is to remember that promise and hold onto it with all our strength.  Alone we often would not have the strength to do this, but we have a Companion whose strength we can rely on—the God of promise, who we know in our brother Jesus, who shares with us the Holy Spirit, the great companion and encourager.

           And remembering the promise and living with the encourager, we can have hope, and hope is above all what we need during the “until.”

           Now a further thing needs to be said, because there is much confusion about “hope.”  Hope is not passive.  It is not simply patience, although patience is often required of us.  Hope is active.  Hope is not waiting for life to change, it is about living that change.

           Neither is hope a cheap optimism, a cheery, “Oh, everything will work out for the best.”  Hope does not need optimism, because it has faith, and it has love.  Paul proclaims this truth in metaphor:

 Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

           Faith, love, and hope protect us during the “until.”  The Thessalonians are anxious and impatience because Jesus has not returned as he seemed to have promised.  They do not like living in the “until.”  Paul’s reply is something like this:

 Hey, I hear you, but what can I do.  What we long for is not predictable.  It cannot be managed by the likes of us.  It’s going to be a surprise.  All that we can do is wait and stay ready, live in hope, because whatever happens and whenever it happens,

 God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

          As I said before, we can live in the until because we have the promise and we have a Companion, and furthermore, in that Companion, we have companions, fellow encouragers, because Christ’s body on earth is us, which means we are all in this together, all in the time of “until.”

          The Catechism in the Prayer Book says the primary mission of the church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (p. 855)  I wish there was another clause that said, “and then to encourage one another to live in faith, hope and love until the day of peace, the day when God fulfills God’s promises.”

          Until that day comes when all is put right under the merciful and gracious will of God, let us do nothing but encourage one another to live in love, to live in faith, and to live in hope.

          The question is always not, “How can I get through this until?” but, “How can we get through this until together as the people of God?”

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Lincoln And Biden: Coming Home

 It just happened that two events of importance to our household happened today.  Joe Biden was elected

President, and a dog named Lincoln arrived to join our household.

I know that some members of my family and fellow church members are hurt today by the Biden news.  We don't agree, but I do get your disorientation and, perhaps, anger.  I have been in your position before, on the losing side when I thought the loss was going to be too much to bear, a great mistake and a great injustice.  Let's agree, as much as humanly possible, to be fellow Americans and, if it applies, fellow Christians.  Let us love our country and our God, and disagree on some of how we want to make things happen, and what those things are, together.

To introduce you to Lincoln--what a distinguished name he was given by his previous people!--he is a beagle-mix, four to five years old. His people moved away and couldn't take him with them.  He is definitely a people dog and seems so excited to be here with us.  He has lots of energy, but right now he's taking a break on one of the dog beds.  The cats are fine. We're hoping eventually Julius the kitten will have found a playmate.  They're leery of each other now, no fisticuffs.  Tica, our older cat, will weather the new addition. She has seen them come and go and continues the undisputed ruler of all she surveys.

As to the election, we are greatly relieved.  It's not so much about the politics as it is about the atmosphere.  We long to get beyond the meanness and division.  We're not so naive to think that it will all go away just because we have a new President.  But we hope and pray that we will have someone as our leader who desires with all his heart for us to be one, and there, indeed, to be justice for all.

In the meantime it is a joy to have the presence again of a dog.  He just got up and barked at something he is hearing from outside.  I almost cried.  For the second time today.