Monday, July 25, 2016

On Prayer

"Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'  Jesus said to him, 'When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.'"
--Luke 11: 1-4

Let's talk about prayer.  It is one of the foundations of our lives as people of faith.  Every single religion that has ever existed has been grounded in prayer, in a time of intentional communication with the Divine. But what exactly is prayer about, and why do we do it?

A few years ago I drove past a church sign that read:  prayer changes things.  Is that what prayer is about?  Do we pray so that God will change the way things are, whether for us or for someone we love or for the world around us? No doubt that that is a part of why we pray, hoping that our prayers will someone change things.  However, the more I thought about that sign the more frustrated I became with it; after all, if prayer changes things then why do children still starve?  Why do diseases like cancer and AIDS still exist and take the ones we love way too soon? Why is this country still caught in the clutches of bigotry and intolerance?  If prayer changed things, I thought, then surely God would have already fixed these things, and problems like them.  We've certainly been praying for things to change for a very, very, very long time, and God knows that. So the more I thought about it, the more I reckoned that, in fact, prayer does not change things, at least not in and of itself. So what is it about?  I think Jesus gives us an idea.

When someone asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he responded with a prayer that has become such a part of our identity as Christians that we call it the Lord's Prayer.  There are two versions of this prayer in the Gospels--the one at the top of this page from Luke and a longer version in the Gospel of Matthew.  We learn a lot about the nature of prayer from the Lord's Prayer, or at least we learn a lot about how Jesus viewed prayer.

First off, we learn that, in all of our prayers, we are meant to address God as we would address a parent figure.  In the Lord's Prayer, of course, it's 'Father,' but even if we call God 'Mother' it's still the same thing.  God is parent, the ultimate parent, the one who provides for us, teaches us, and loves us beyond belief.  So when we come to God in prayer we come as a child coming to a loving parent who delights in simply being in the presence of the child.

Secondly, we see in the Lord Prayer that, before anything is asked for ourselves, God and God's glory are given reverence.  "Hallowed be your name."  Sacred.  Holy.  Blessed be your name.  As we step into prayer we step into the magnificence, the majesty, and the awesome presence of our hallowed and blessed God. Thus, all prayer must be grounded first and foremost in a sense of reverence for God before we can ever begin to give a petition.

Lastly, the Lord's Prayer, we see, covers all of life.  It covers our present need--"give us each day, our daily bread"--it covers our past sin--"forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone indebted to us"--and it covers future trials and temptations--"and do not bring us to the time of trial. " Everything we are, have been, and will be is wrapped up in this prayer.  Maybe that's why it's so easy for us to remember, why folks suffering from severe dementia can still remember it.  It is the prayer that sums up all other prayers, the model for how we are to come to God in prayer, with the heart of a child, with reverence, and with a willingness to examine who we are, have been, and will be.  What we don't see in the Lord's Prayer, though, is the promise that if we do it enough it will change things for us and make everything ok.

You may be saying to yourself:  sure, Father Prime, but didn't Jesus go on to tell the parable about a person who knocks on the door of a friend in the middle of the night and keeps persisting until the friend finally gets up and gives him what he wants?  Isn't that a parable about prayer, about how we are never supposed to give up, and how if we keep praying over and over again God will eventually give us what we want?  And if God doesn't give us what we want, then doesn't that mean we didn't pray enough?  True, There are some who look at that parable and think that it means that we must continue to pester God with our prayers, that if we keep at it God will grant those prayers; after all, Jesus does say (and we often sing), "ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open unto you."  Keep on knocking, right?  If we keep knocking God will get so annoyed that God will eventually give us what we want, right?  I don't think so.  I cannot see Jesus telling us that the point of prayer is to keep at it until God finally gives in; after all, in the Gospel reading he has just given us the Lord's Prayer, which is not particularly persistent in its wording.

As I thought more about the parable of the man at the door and the nature of prayer, I got to thinking about a man named Lawrence, who I met a few years back. He was in a good bit of trouble, having been hit by a car.  His medical bills were so high that he lost his apartment, his job, and his vehicle.  He came to the church hoping for some help, and we were able to give him some.  He managed to get a job, but Sit just wasn't enough to keep him afloat.  As a result he was having to live week to week out of motel rooms.  I was driving him to get a room one day when he nearly broke down in frustration.  He told me he was a good man and that he prayed all the time, without ceasing, and yet God still let all this bad stuff happen to him. Why hadn't God answered his prayers?  He finally asked me, "Doesn't it say that if you ask it'll be given to you?"  This man was so distraught over the fact that God had ignored his prayers, especially the one for a steady roof over his head.  Maybe, I told him, that's not what prayer is about.

Maybe prayer is not about changing things but about changing ourselves.  Jesus concludes his parable by noting that even evil people take care of their children. No one would willingly give a child a scorpion if she asked for an egg?  Certainly not!  If evil people take are of their children, how much more then will God do it?  God does not willingly afflict the children whom God loves so much.  Does that mean God will always give us what we want?  Of course not! Those of you who are parents:  are you always capable of giving your children what they want?  I know that you're not.  Still, I'd be willing to bet that you still try to give them something,  whether it be some kind of wisdom or lesson, or just a simple reminder that you love them, even though they're standing there angry at you because they didn't get what you want.  I think God is like that, and I think prayer is like that.  Prayer isn't about getting what we want, but rather it is about coming to God, listening to God, giving our requests over to God, and then keeping our eyes and ears and hearts open for the ways in which God answers that prayer.  It may not look like what we initially asked for, but that doesn't mean God didn't hear it.  And it might end up changing us.

There is no such thing as unanswered prayer!  Jesus makes that clear.  The parable he gives teaches us that, yes, we are never to stop praying, no matter what.  However, when we come to God it is not the same as the parable--where a man comes to a friend in the night who is clearly perturbed and only gets up and helps out of a sense of wanting the person to leave him alone.  This isn't how God works!  When we pray we go to the One who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves, the One whose heart is generous and loving.  If we do not get what we ask for in prayer it does not mean God is angry with us. God does not willingly afflict those whom God loves, contrary to what the man I met believed. It could very well be that our prayer is being answered in a form that we have not considered, a form we do not expect, but a form that is nonetheless an agent of God's grace.  The man I met could not see that the church had been an agent of God's grace, that the place which had hired him had been an agent of God's grace.  He was so consumed with the fact that his own specific prayer had not been answered the way he wanted, that he could not see his prayer had, in some way, been answered, and so, he could not be changed.

So why do we pray?  We pray because, while prayer does not change things, it does change people, and people can change thing.  Prayer is more than a social contract between us and God, so much more than "I'll do this for you if you do this for me."  Prayer is about being in an intentional relationship with God, being vulnerable enough to come to God with everything we are, have been, and will be, in the hope that we may open our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears, to see the agents of God's grace all around us.  We can use the Lord's Prayer as our guide, to show us how to come to God our loving parent with reverence and humility, that we may remember that God loves us and never abandons us, even when we don't get what we pray for.  Keep praying, brothers and sisters, and you may find agents of God's grace all around you, and you may find yourselves changed for good.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lessons in Tolerance from Mary, Martha, and a Freewill Baptist

"Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me.'  But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.'"
--Luke 10: 38-42

One of my best friends, a fella that I actually worked with in my days as a baseball coach and sports information director, is a Freewill Baptist.  I won't get into all the ways that a Freewill Baptist is different from an Episcopalian, but suffice it to say, there's more than a couple of things that we disagree on.  Still, almost every time I go home I see my friend, and we have lunch--usually about 3 hours long--and talk about everything from what God is up to in the world, to the latest baseball news, and all points in-between.  One time, after having a pretty long and heated conversation, he turns to me and says, "You know, I'm glad we disagree."  I asked him why, and he replied, "Because if we believed exactly the same things, just imagine all the folks that wouldn't get to hear the Good News."

With my favorite Freewill Baptist, Rick Bentley, who always shows me how diverse the Body of Christ can be.

Wise words from that Freewill Baptist buddy of mine.  He's right, after all. There are things that he and I are able to teach each other, things that he understands about God that I never could and vice versa.  Our temperaments, our ways of expressing who God is in the world, may be different, but God needs them both and uses them both.  Odds are I could never go into his little church in eastern Kentucky and preach the way I do, nor could his pastor come and to so with my congregation.  God uses both of us in our own ways, just like God used both Mary and Martha.

I don't think there are patron saints of theological disagreements, but Mary and Martha could certainly qualify.  They are likely best known for their brother Lazarus, who was a good friend of Jesus and was raised from the dead by Jesus in the Gospel Gospel of John, but here in Luke's Gospel we meet only the two sisters--their brother is never mentioned--and we get a glimpse of two very different responses to Jesus being in their midst.

An icon of Sts. Mary, Marth, and Lazarus of Bethany.

Mary kneels down at Jesus' feet during the bulk of their visit.  We can see her with bright eyes, hanging on to every single word.  Many of us might think that that's exactly how we would respond were Jesus to come into our house and have a meal, just sit there at his feet, listening to him speak, mouth gaped open, trying to pick up some little nugget of grace that he might drop.  Then there is Martha, who, instead of sitting next to Jesus or hanging on to every word, greets Jesus and his friends at the door and waits on them during their visit.  We can see the sweat running down her brow as she cooks and runs back and forth, trying to take care of her guests.  No doubt there are many of us who know what it's like to show this kind of hospitality, those who run to and fro trying to get everything in order for guests and make sure everything is just right.

These two sisters show two very different responses to Jesus being in their midst.  The former is quiet and contemplative, probably a heart person, while the latter is organized and meticulous, a head person, most likely.  Mary could be compared with folks folks who come to church and just sit in the pew, taking it all in and praying silently, while Martha is more like the person in church who feels the need to put her faith into action by serving on altar guild or as a eucharistic minister.  

We see how much Mary frustrates Martha, don't we?  Martha even exclaims to Jesus, "Tell her to help me!"  Tell this dreamer to get up and actually do something productive.  Have you ever been frustrated with someone because of the way that they interact with Jesus?  That's what Martha is doing here.  She's looking at her sister and arguing that Mary is not doing it right, that she should be responding to Jesus the way Martha is. Have you done that?  Have you ever been to a service in a different denomination and said, "Please Lord, tell them they are doing it all wrong!"  Of course not!  Well, I have!  It's natural when such temperaments are in conflict with one another.  Sometimes it's hard for us to understand how someone else interacts with Jesus--whether the conflict is between a contemplative person and an active person, or between a Freewill Baptist and an Episcopalian. To be sure, sometimes it can be frustrating when we try to understand how and why someone else responds to Jesus in a particular manner.

Yet, like my Freewill Baptist friend is always reminding me, there is no right or wrong in this.  The ways in which we connect to Jesus, that we allow his voice to stir in our lives, and that we respond to that voice are as varied as the number of folks who fill up our churches on Sunday mornings.  We are all so very different.  God made us so very different.  Why then would God want us all doing precisely the same things when it comes to our relationship with Jesus?  Yes, there are constants--we Episcopalians have our Book of Common Prayer and the ancient creeds, for example.  But even within the Episcopal Church the ways in which we worship and work are different--some prefer to stand for prayer, others prefer to kneel, some believe that the bread and wine are actually turned into the Body and Blood of Christ, others believe it is just a memorial that we do for Jesus, some prefer we sing hymns that have beautiful, theologically-sound lyrics, others prefer the hymns that are just plain easy to sing, some prefer Rite One, others prefer Rite Two.  And that's just in my congregation alone!  The Body of Christ is so much bigger than any of us.  We must, therefore, be willing to listen to one another, to understand that there is a place for all of us because there is only one head of that body:  Jesus Christ.  We cannot forget this!

Whether you are a contemplative Mary or a fast-paced Martha, God needs you.  Whether you are a heart person like my Freewill Baptist friend, or you're a head person like me,  God needs you.  Whether you like Rite Two or wish we would just go back to the 1928  Prayer Book, God needs you.  God needs us all because each of us has a story, each of us has a way of connecting to God, and there is someone else out there who needs your story, needs your perspective, because you might be the only one who will connect them to God.  That's what my friend meant when he said, "Imagine all the people who wouldn't get to hear the Good News."  Somewhere out there is someone who cannot hear anyone's voice but yours. It doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter what your perspective is, God needs you, and God will work with you to connect with others and sow the seeds of the kingdom. 

As Jesus urges Martha to show tolerance for her sister Mary, we must show tolerance to our brothers and sisters who may worship, pray, or come to Jesus differently from us.  God is still using those people because God needs them, just as God needs us.  God is big enough, after all, big enough to use both Mary and Martha, big enough to use my Freewill Baptist friend and me, big enough to use you, to use everyone and every perspective, to sow the seeds of the kingdom. 

Jesus said to Martha, "There is only need of one thing."  He doesn't say what that is.  What's your one thing?  What's your unique story or perspective that only you bring?  And how will you respect the stories and perspectives of others?  

Thanks be to God for Mary and Martha, for the different ways that they encounter Jesus, and for the reminder that they provide for us that Jesus needs all of our perspectives.  Blessed Mary and Martha, pray for us!

For more information and for the readings and prayers for the occasion of the Feast of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, click here

Monday, July 11, 2016

Go and Do Likewise

'The Good Samaritan' (1994) by Dinah Roe Kendall

This past Sunday the Gospel reading was Luke 10: 25-37, which is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I'm not including the full text here because I think it's safe to say that this is one of, if not the most, well-known of Jesus' stories. Found only in Luke's gospel, it is such a part of our Christian narrative that I suspect sometimes we forget that it's a parable and not an actual biblical event. We know the story so well:  a man is traveling the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho and is robbed; then two people come upon him--a priest and a Levite--but walk past; finally, a Samaritan comes upon the man, takes him to an inn, cleans up his wounds, and makes sure he has a place to stay.  Who is it, then, that we wish to emulate?  Well, it's obviously the Samaritan, right?  Of course. So engrained is this story in our minds that we name hospitals after the Good Samaritan, and we consider anyone who performs some act of kindness to be a Good Samaritan.  Yet do we ever really stop to think just how radical this text is. If so, we might be less inclined to want to identify ourselves with the Samaritan, and we might not be so eager to agree with Jesus.

To understand the fullness of this story's power we have to understand who the Samaritans were. The Samaritans were not Jews; in fact, they were as different from Jews as you could be and yet still consider yourselves followers of the One True God. They, like Jews, were descendants of Abraham, but while Jews had been scattered during the Babylonian exile, Samaritans stayed put, resulting in a different version of Torah and other sacred texts being written. They believed the holy site not to be Jerusalem but atop Mount Gerazim, which was the mountain that Moses and the Israelites worshipped upon when they first laid eyes on the Holy Land. Samaritans were considered foreigners in the land, even though they actually weren't, and they were so cutoff from their Jewish cousins that Jews considered them to be of an even worse stock than Gentiles. Simply put:  the Samaritans were the very embodiment of the Other, of the absolute worst kind of people. And the Jews despised them.

So the lawyer who compelled Jesus to tell this story of a man being cared for by such an extreme form of the Other would have likely expected the Samaritan to end up being the one who kicked the man into the ditch in the first place.  Instead, the no-good foreigner turns out to be the good guy, the one who acted with mercy. When the lawyer asked Jesus, 'Who is my neighbor?' he would've expected the response to include any Jewish male. Even though Leviticus 19: 18 says, "make no vengeance and love your neighbor as yourself," that language was vague enough that religious authorities were able to put their own spin on it. Yes, they said, you should love your neighbor, but women, foreigners, Gentiles, and sinners were not your neighbor. Your neighbor was one of us, not one of them, and you should absolutely take care of someone who is one of us.  Let God worry about the rest.

Yet in Jesus the notion of neighbor is redefined, and in this story the one who embodies what it means to love your neighbor is the very one that the lawyer would've dismissed. The Samaritan, the Other, shows mercy toward the man in the story, cleaning his wounds and giving the innkeeper enough money to take care of him for several days--two denarii would've afforded the man roughly two months stay at the inn. "Go and do likewise," Jesus tells the lawyer. Go and show mercy. Go and be neighborly, be loving to the Samaritans in your midst, to the Gentile, the foreigner, the sinner. Don't be like the priest and the Levite who were only concerned with themselves. Make this Samaritan your model because he is your neighbor. Forget about us and them. Those are outdated concepts. Jesus presents a new concept:  there is only us.

There is only us:  beloved and beautiful children of God. When we really think about what Jesus is saying it's pretty jarring. It flies in the face of the systems in which we have operated for centuries. Everything we know about who does and does not deserve our respect and mercy are thrown out the window. The ancient Israelites saw little to no value in people who were not of their tribes, and they passed that mindset down through the ages until Jesus finally comes along and tears down that social structure.  

We hear this story, then, and we are all on-board with Jesus.  Yeah, Jesus, you're right!  Samaritans are ok and deserve mercy!  Still, what if Jesus tearing down our own modern social structures, rather than those of 2000 years ago?  What if the parable were told in a slightly different way? Like this:

An Episcopal bishop was walking down a dangerous street and saw a young white girl, who had been beaten and robbed lying in a ditch.  The bishop felt bad, but he had an importance service to get to, so he walked on. In the same way a Methodist pastor walked by, and though she drew close and even prayed over the girl, she passed along because she had her own issues that she needed to deal with. A few moments later, a dark skinned Muslim man walked by. He saw the girl in trauma and took her to the hospital, got her cleaned up, and gave her money for a place to stay. Which one was a neighbor to the girl?

This is the power of this parable.  The Good Samaritan is any Other.  He is the one that you despise, the one that you cannot possibly imagine showing any act of kindness.  As such, we can substitute any type of Other for the Samaritan:

A gay man came upon a straight person lying in the ditch. A black teenager in a hoodie came across a fallen police officer.  An illegal immigrant came upon a hard-working farmer. A conservative Republican came across a liberal Democrat, his opponent in the next election.  You get the idea. 

This parable is meant to show us what the kingdom of God can and should look like here on earth:  a kingdom without labels, where people reach down into the ditch and pick up our brother or sister and say, 'Come on!  Let me take care of you.  Because God loves you!'  That's a radical dream, but it is Jesus' dream, and it can be achieved by showing the mercy of the Good Samaritan, by loving our neighbor.

Love your neighbor. Love your Episcopal neighbor. Your Methodist neighbor (and we got a lot of those in our section of North Carolina!). Your gun-owning neighbor. Your pacific neighbor. Your black neighbor. Your gay neighbor. Your Muslim neighbor. Your atheist neighbor. Your poor, begging neighbor. Your rich, affluent neighbor.  Love these and all those in-between, for all, ALL are your neighbor. 

So how will we respond the next time we meet someone in trouble?  Will we move to the other side of the road, thinking only of ourselves?  Or will we remember how Jesus' assurance that that person is our brother, our sister, and will we hear his voice calling us to action?  So may we go, brothers and sisters, and trek the troublesome roads of our communities, of our world. And when we see our neighbors--ANY of our neighbors--may we have the grace to act as the Samaritan in the story.  May we go and do likewise!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Church of the Seventy

This post also appears on the blog Modern Metanoia, run by good friend and colleague Father Marshall Jolly.  You can check it out here :

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
--Luke 10: 1

When artist Bob Kane created The Batman in 1938 the so-called Dark Knight was a solitary figure.  But in 1940 Kane decided that his nocturnal detective needed a partner.  So, hoping to draw in younger readers, Kane introduced Robin, the Boy Wonder. Together Batman and Robin would become the icons of justice in Gotham City:  the Dynamic Duo. In the years since it is safe to say that these two caped crusaders have become one of the most recognizable teams in all of popular culture.

First appearance of Robin, the Boy Wonder (Detective Comics # 38, April, 1940).

There is something special about a great duo, a team. Comics have Batman & Robin, baseball has guys like Alan Trammel & Sweet Lou Whittaker. Like the Dynamic Duo, Trammel and Whittaker, teammates with the Detroit Tigers, worked perfectly in tandem, combining for more double-plays together than any other shortstop and second base duo in baseball history. There is so much that a good duo, a good team, can accomplish when they work together.

Alan Trammell (Left) and Sweet Lou Whittaker, the greatest double play duo on baseball history.

I suspect Jesus had this in mind when he sent out the 70. Its true that 70 is a significant number for the Jewish people--there were 70 elders elected to assist Moses, and the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin was made up of 70 people--but I like to think that Jesus was less concerned with the theological significance of the number than he was the importance of forming teams to go out and do his work. Its possible that they could have covered even more ground or preached to more people had Jesus just let them go at it alone, but he clearly saw something in this idea of sending them out as a duo, as a team.

By sending the 70 out in this manner Jesus made sure that they could be there for each other, hold each other accountable, and remind each other that their mission was not to be cluttered by unnecessary baggage (carry no purse, no sandals, etc.). Heading out together would mean they could lift each other's spirits when times got tough, or they could tell stories to each other to pass the time on their long journeys. Above all, by sending them out in pairs Jesus reassured them that they were not alone. This work to which they were called would not be a solitary endeavor. You're going to need each other," Jesus was telling them.  Were going to need each other, too. 

Here is a piece of Gospel truth that certainly speaks to us today. Often times we feel like we have to do everything on our own, to be our own self-made man or woman. We live in a society that champions the individual, but oh how lonely this attitude can be!  How lonely it is to face life's many challenges by ourselves. What a comfort it is, then, to hear Jesus tell us that were not alone?! Yes, life does at times feel like we are sheep in the midst of wolves, but we do not have to face the wolves by ourselves; after all, Jesus sent the 70 to places that he himself intended to go.  It is no different for us.  Not only does Jesus send us out with someone by our sidebe they a spouse or partner, a sibling, a best friend, a loyal dog, or the community of a churchhe promises that he will follow behind us and work in those mysterious ways that we cannot ever fully understand.  Yet we can understand this:  Jesus does not call us into solitary ministry.

Still, this does not mean everything is always going to be rainbows and unicorns when we step out into the fearful world of ministry.  Sometimes teams have a tough time working together, and plenty of bumps in the road pop up. It happens even to the best duos and teams. Try reading All Star Batman & Robin by Frank Miller. In that book the heroes are constantly at each other's throats.  Batman is downright abusive to Robin, and the reader wonders the whole time how this duo could ever be dynamic.  Yet in the end they support each other in coping with their respective personal tragedies. In 1984 Alan Trammel made 10 errors at shortstop and Sweet Lou made 15 at second base.  That hardly sounds like the best double play duo in history, huh? Yet they still managed to lead the Tigers to their first World Series title in 36 years!  In our own lives we make mistakes and we clash at times with our spouses and partners, siblings, friends, dogs, and (especially!) our church communities. We make mistakes all the time, and we argue at an alarming rate.  Do you really think the 70 didn't argue?  I've no doubt that they had moments of anxiety and heated disagreements.  Still, they knew they needed each other. 

Batman needed Robin. Trammel needed Sweet Lou. And we need each other.  We were never meant to go through life completely alone.  We were made for each other, made for relationship.  Those relationships are grounded in the first relationship, that covenant that God made with humanity at that first dawn.  Just as God has made us to be in relationship with God, we embody that same relationship with one another, working together as we take part in Gods unfolding promise to mend the entire universe. We dare not undertake such a task alone! It is only by holding one another, supporting one another, and sharing one anothers burdens that we can accomplish this (with Gods help, of course).  We find meaning in our relationships with one another because God first found meaning by forming a relationship with us, and it is through those relationships that we form a team with one another and with God. And theres no telling what this team can achieve!

We are in this thing together, brothers and sisters, and we need each other for the work of bringing about the Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  This is not solitary work.  It must be shared. It is not a clergy thing. Or a lay-person thing. It is an everyone thing. This is what catholic faith, universal faith, is all aboutthe assurance that we are not alone.  To profess the catholic faith is to be reminded that it is not about just me and my personal relationship with Jesus and whether or not I'm saved. Instead, it is about all of us working together toward salvation. That work is done through our prayers and actions, with bread and wine shared in a holy meal, anthems sung in praise to God, and hands that reach out to pull our brothers and sisters up from the gutters to show them the love of the One who first loved us.  When we say in our Creed that we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, this is what we mean. We believe in a Church without walls, one whose members go into the world like the 70 to share Christ's redemptive love.  We believe in a Church where each member has a role to play, where we work together, supporting and lifting up one another.  We believe in a Church that reminds us that we are not alone.  We believe in a Church where everyone belongs. We believe in the Church of the 70. We believe because that's the Church we are called to be!

Jesus is calling us, as he called the 70, to go into the world and proclaim the Good News.  But he does not invite us to do so alone.  He gives us one another, that we may walk and work with each other. To be a team. You. Me. All of us. We are in this together, brothers and sisters, and together, with God's power working through us and Jesus backing us up, our team will work wonders!