Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sermon; 7 Pentecost, Proper 11A; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

Today we continue our journey with kingdom parables. If you remember from last week, I said that Matthew uses the word “kingdom” more than any other gospel, and because of that, how he presents Jesus' lineage, and his telling of the birth narrative, we refer to Matthew as a kingdom gospel. All of the parables we hear in this three week period have as their basis, “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .”

Last week's parable was about the sower scattering seed over a variety of landing places. Today we hear of a farmer who plants good seed only to find out later that an enemy has sown a weed in the midst of his crop. If Jesus were from Hagerstown, those parables may have been less agrarian and more along the lines of, “The kingdom of heaven is like a hub that draws to it all manner of highways and railroads,” or, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a city held hostage by an enemy army.” But he didn't, so this is what we've got to work with.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a farmer who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the plants came up, the slaves were astonished to find weeds mixed in among the wheat and they ask the farmer if they should pull up the weeds. “Let them be,” says the farmer, “otherwise you will uproot the good with the bad. I will have my reapers separate them at harvest time.”

Like last week the lectionary skips over several passages in order to focus on one parable. Unlike last week, what was skipped over today will be heard next week with another grouping of parables. And like last week, we also hear Jesus' explanation. The sower, he says, is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom of heaven, the enemy is the devil, the weeds are the children of the evil one, the reapers are the angels, and the harvest is the end of the age.

What's going on in this parable?

First is that both here and in the kingdom of heaven we are being asked to live with people who differ from us. This is easier said than done. It's difficult living with weeds when we ourselves are beautiful flowers. It's difficult living with prickly weeds when we are gentle to the touch. It's difficult living with people who seem to have no redeeming social values as opposed to ourselves who are morally upstanding individuals. It's difficult living with people who have the wrong ideas about church, liturgy, and theology, when we ourselves have the right, correct, and orthodox ideas that have been handed down for generations.

But this is precisely what God is asking us to do. He is asking us to live with those we consider weeds. He is asking us to share our resources with those who are different from us. He is asking us to be patient with those prickly people who annoy us to no end. The reality is that we don't always get along, even with flowers of our own species – just ask anyone who has been married or serves on a vestry. God knows this. God knows we are different. God knows there will be friction and competition for resources. And God asks us to live with weeds. Are you willing to obey God and wait until the end of the age, all the while living with the tension of difference?

Besides this issue of learning to tolerate the other, we need to understand that it is not our job to pull weeds. In this parable, the farmer tells his slaves that the reapers will gather and separate the wheat from the weeds at the harvest. If he let the slaves remove the weeds, all they would do would be to pull up the good along with the bad, and then the whole crop would be ruined. Removing people who differ from us is not our job because we just might destroy the kingdom. The job of separating the two will be done by the reapers, the angels, at the appropriate time.

And yet . . . we try anyway. We can be so firmly convinced of our own righteousness or rightness that we see anyone who thinks differently, acts differently, interprets differently, as a weed that must be pulled up and tossed aside. And while we think we are doing the Lord's work, the reality is that we are destroying the Church.

This happened during the Reformation when reformer after reformer broke away because the one before wasn't right enough. Luther was followed by Calvin who was followed by Zwingli who was followed by another who all decided that the previous reformer didn't go far enough and wasn't right enough because they still held to some doctrine that the next reformer found to be problematic at best and heretical at worst.

It happened in England when the Puritans tried to cleanse the church of all things “popish” including candles, vestments, wedding rings, icons, and organs.

And it is happening today in the worldwide church over issues such as full equality, environmental protection, biblical inerrancy, the place of women, healthcare, patriotism, and a growing intolerance for anyone dubbed “other.” The desire to pull up those we see as weeds in order to keep us pure and undefiled is strong. But that desire to pull up those we label as weeds will ultimately result in pulling up the good as well and leaving behind a barren patch of ground where nothing grows.

The kingdom of heaven is apparently like a big garden with sowers, seeds, laborers, and reapers. The kingdom of heaven has both wheat and weeds. In today's parable, we are asked to live with the weeds, to live with those different from us, to live with those whom we determine are detrimental to the garden, until the end of the age. That is a long time to put up with someone we deem worthless.

So here's something to consider: just exactly what is the definition of a weed? A weed is nothing more than an unwanted plant. We used to rent a house that was a veritable jungle of all kinds of plants and flowers, but no grass – because the owner thought grass was a weed. A weed, then, is in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes weeds and wheat look awfully similar. St. Jerome noted this and said, “The Lord therefore advises us that we should not be quick to judge what is doubtful but should leave judgment up to God.”

Instead of spending our energy looking for weeds and then tearing up the garden trying to get rid of them, we should be spending our energy putting a stop to those things that are actively destroying the garden. We should be ever vigilant and on guard for those who claim to know the difference between weeds and wheat and have not only assigned themselves the role of reaper, but have promised a garden of only plants they approve. We should watch out for those spraying spiritual RoundUp in an effort to eliminate the unwanted.

In the beginning, God created plants of every kind, and he saw that it was good. Let's let God determine when to cull weeds from wheat, and let's spend our time ensuring that all the plants in the garden are healthy and growing.


Amen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sermon; 6 Pentecost, Proper 10A; Matthew 13:1-19, 18-23

Today we begin a three week journey with what are commonly called “kingdom parables.” One of the things we need to know about Matthew's gospel is that it is a kingdom gospel. Matthew uses the word kingdom more than any of the other gospels. He traces Jesus' lineage through a royal line going back as far as Abraham, the patriarch of the Israelites. He is the one who records the three wise men (or magi or kings) arriving at the Holy Family's house in Bethlehem. So as we listen to these parables, note that they are all about the kingdom of heaven.

Today's kingdom parable of the sower appears in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Next week's parable appears only in Matthew. And of the three parables we'll hear in two weeks, only the parable of the mustard seed appears in all three. Additionally, it is only that parable where all three gospels relate it to the kingdom. So while the other gospels may reference the kingdom, Matthew consistently does.

Parables are interesting things because even though we think we know the meaning of parable, there can be multiple layers and multiple meanings to it. It is that multilayered aspect that gives a parable life; it is that multilayered aspect that allows it to have meaning for us today.

Today's parable is a perfect example of this. For those of us who have been involved in church for some time, we have heard this parable countless times in our lives. The traditional way to understand this parable of the sower is that the sower is God and the various landing spots are the people. God scatters the seed of the kingdom and some people do not understand, some people cannot endure, some people are distracted by the ways of the world, while some people hear and produce results.. But because this is a parable, there are a variety of ways to understand it.

For instance . . . previously in Matthew's gospel Jesus gave us missional instructions to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. If we go out into the world proclaiming the good news, then we become the sower. The seed we sow is the gospel message, and where the seed ends up is, again, the people. Some of those people will not understand, some will get distracted, and some will produce results for the kingdom.

The parable could also be about the foolish generosity of God. If I'm a farmer sowing crops, I want to make sure that what I sow has the best chance to produce. I will either plant each seed by hand, or drop seeds only in good soil, soil that will lead to yields of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. But here's God scattering seed willy-nilly across the land not really caring where it ends up, only caring that everyone has a chance to receive the good news. If we see ourselves as the sower, then maybe we need to do a better job of being foolishly generous.

A follow-up interpretation to this version is that there are no lost causes. The seed that was scattered on the path is often taken up and eaten by birds, having no time to take root. But that's not always the case. How many times have you been out walking and noticed a shoot of new growth springing up from a crack in the pavement? We all have cracks. It just may be that the seed, the word of God, finds a crack on the hard path and causes something good to grow. Maybe there's hope for being foolishly generous.

Another interpretation focuses on the use of parables themselves. Today's passage is, like last week, chopped up. What's been cut out is the section where Jesus tells the disciples that he uses parables to confuse outsiders but to deepen the faith of the disciples. The parable itself is given to those willing to learn, to those willing to dive in and explore, to those who want to deepen their faith. Those are the ones who will produce thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. The parable is designed for people serious about their faith. Think of parables as an AP religion class.

And yet another way to see this parable is to connect it back to the second creation story and the Garden of Eden.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, and there he put the man. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and keep it.

The sower is once again God, planting “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” But this time God isn't just planting seeds in a garden, God is scattering his seed of Good News throughout the world.

Notice this though: that when God planted the garden the first time, what was the very next thing God did? God put the man in the garden to till it and keep it. It became our job to care for what God had planted. In today's parable, the garden is the world. What's missing from the parable, then, is us.

If we were put in the garden to till it and keep it, can it not be that we are put in this world to help cultivate the word of God? If in God's generosity some seed falls on the path, is it not our responsibility to place it in good soil; or, at the very least, drive away the birds of Satan? If this parable ties back to creation and the garden, then we have work to do.

Parables are wonderfully engaging tools that allow us to study, delve, imagine, and play. In engaging today's parable, are you the sower or the seed? Are you rocky ground or fertile soil? Are you an active participant or a passive observer? Depending on the day, maybe you are a little of each.

Over the next three weeks, we will hear a variety of kingdom parables. My job isn't to explain them, but to help you engage with them. These are kingdom parables that apply as equally to us today as they did to Jesus' original audience.

Let anyone with ears listen.


Amen.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sermon; 5 Pentecost, Proper 9A; Matt. 11:16-19, 25-30

The gospel passage for today is, in my opinion, misplaced. It has no context in which to place it. And it is a chopped up version of Chapter 11 that makes one wonder just what the lectionary committee was thinking. So let's see if I can put a frame around it.

First, it follows the missionary passages/instructions we heard over the past several weeks. Those missional instructions were given to both Jesus' original twelve disciples and his disciples of today – us. They were to go and proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore in a world that is hostile to our cause, welcoming those who welcome you, and remembering to give cups of cold water to the little ones you meet.

Unlike Luke, though, Matthew never tells us how that mission turned out. Instead he moves Jesus into the cities to teach and proclaim the message. While doing this, word of Jesus gets back to John who is now in prison. His disciples are sent to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one?” Jesus answers by reiterating that the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Jesus also chastises the crowd for not understanding who John was.

And that brings us to today's passage.

But then next week, as the lectionary moves on, it totally skips Chapter 12 in which Jesus has several run ins with Pharisees, performs a few healings, foreshadows his Passion, and turns away from his family in favor of his mission. Instead, next week begins in Chapter 13 with a three week focus on kingdom parables

So, again, we have this passage between mission and parables, with no connection to either.

That said, I want to focus on the first half of today's passage. This generation is like children calling to one another, “We played the flute, and you didn't dance; we wailed, and you didn't mourn.”

There are a lot of ways to go with this, and I want to focus on a dual allegory.

We played the flute, and you didn't dance. This can represent Jesus and his excitement, eagerness . . . passion . . . for the coming kingdom. With Jesus, the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk. With Jesus there is joy. It was Jesus who turned water to wine at a wedding. It is Jesus who is referred to as the bridegroom. Jesus plays the flute, but the people are unwilling to dance.

We wailed, and you did not mourn. This can represent John and his end-time focus. He was called by God to prepare the way of the Messiah. He was called to bring people to repentance. He was called to bring about a major change in the advent of the coming storm. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John has no time for frivolity. He wailed, but the people were unwilling to mourn.

The flip side of this dual allegory is that the children represent this generation and are the ones calling out to Jesus and John. They are the ones playing the flute wanting John to dance. They are the ones wailing wanting Jesus to mourn.

In either case, we, the children of this generation, are trying to make Jesus bend to our desires. Jesus is playing the flute and asking us to dance, but we refuse because it is beneath our dignity. We would rather spend our time wailing.

Or Jesus asks us to notice the hurt, neglected, alienated, disposed people of this world. He asks us to wail over their plight and mourn their predicament. He asks us to change. But we would rather turn a blind eye and continue to dance as if nothing were wrong.

I think this dancing and wailing story, more than anything else, may be a cautionary tale. First, as I've already pointed out, it cautions us against trying to bend Jesus to our will. There are times when we are asked to dance for Jesus. That might make us uncomfortable because we Episcopalians like to do all things decently and in order. But there are times we are asked to dance. Let us do so.

But let's not get so caught up in our dancing that we neglect to mourn. There are plenty of social ills that should cause us to mourn. We are each involved in plenty of activities from which we need to repent. Into what difficult situation are we being called? Where are we called to shed tears with those in pain? Let's not forget that Jesus isn't all happy clappy, 700 Club prosperity. There are times we need to mourn. Let us do so.

Second, and finally, this is a cautionary tale as to how we treat others. John was attacked for being too serious. Jesus was attacked for being a party animal (he eats with sinners and drunkards). They were both attacked for not living into the expectations of those around them.

We need to be careful we don't fall into that same trap. Parishioners attack clergy because they never leave the office; or that they are never in the office. People attack others for being too liberal or too conservative; for being too rigid or too loose; for being too lax with rules or for being too persnickety in following them.

I had a conversation the other day with a lady from another church. I told her I couldn't meet Monday morning because I was out making visits. She began complaining that her pastor, unlike me, never made outside visits and she wished she could make him understand how important that was. I said, “You know, this is the only job where a person is expected to be all things to all people. Why don't you look for what he does well?” We need to be careful about our expectations.

Today's passage isn't connected with the previous missional passages or the upcoming parable passages. It has no context in which to frame it. But maybe that's not the point.

Maybe the point of this chopped up, unrelated, non-contextual passage is to caution us before we get too busy. Maybe it's to caution us against seeing Jesus as only dancing or wailing, but to look for times when both are appropriate. Maybe it's to caution us about using our own expectations as litmus tests for others.

As we work to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore those out there in Hagerstown and those in here at St. John's, let's look for times to both dance and mourn as we participate fully in the kingdom of God.


Amen.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sermon; Proper 8A; Matthew 10:40-42

Today's gospel passage closes out the section on missional instructions given to the twelve disciples. This section began two weeks ago when Jesus called the twelve together and sent them out into various parts of Israel (avoiding Gentiles and Samaritans for the time being) to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. But as I alluded to last week, that is no easy mission. You know it wouldn't be easy when Jesus tells them not to worry about physical death, or that he has come to bring a sword, or that sons will be against fathers and daughters against mothers.

Both we and the disciples are being sent out among wolves to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. And today that commissioning, that sending, is given its final set of instructions. We are being sent out to do great things, but before we go, there's one more thing you need to know. That one more thing is this short paragraph that is today's gospel passage.

Earlier in these missional instructions Jesus told the disciples to shake off the dust of a house or town from their feet if they were not welcomed. Now he's preparing them on how to behave should they be welcomed. “If someone welcomes you, they welcome me.” Both we and the disciples have been elevated to the place of official spokesman. In other words, when we speak, so does Jesus because we speak on his behalf.

This is just the opposite of that disclaimer you see/hear in places: “The views expressed by the participants do not necessarily reflect the views of . . . X.” Well in this case, they do; so we need to be careful about how we represent Christ and the Church.

Jesus' statement, “Whoever welcomes you . . .” and, “Whoever welcomes a prophet . . .” is primarily directed to the twelve. Jesus is implying that the twelve named disciples being sent out speak on his behalf, and anyone welcoming them welcomes both the Son and the Father. He is also elevating them to the status of prophet, a venerated position of that time. In short, the twelve are the VIPs of God's kingdom and not to be ignored.

But it isn't just the twelve who are VIPs. Yes, they include Sts. Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest. And there are other VIPs who are well-known down through the ages. People like St. Paul and Justin Martyr, Polycarp and Perpetua, Francis and Claire of Assisi, Pope Leo, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, and our own Michael Curry are included, as are so many other great people and names of the faith. Anyone who welcomes those people in the name of God will receive their reward.

On the one hand, that's good news. On the other hand, though, this brings up a two-fold problem. First, and most obvious, how do we discern between a VIP and an impostor? That can be difficult because sometimes charisma is mistaken for charism. Without going too far down this path, using the Baptismal Covenant as a framework for discernment would be a good idea.

The second problem is that it can be distressing news because precious few of us rise to the level of those great saints and people I mentioned. What do we do with the myriads upon myriads of Christians living simple, faithful, anonymous lives? Lucky for us Jesus addresses this very issue.

“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple . . .”

In Matthew, when Jesus uses the term “little ones” he is referring to the humble Christians who may also be poor, or those who are new to the faith.

Notice what Jesus says here: Whoever GIVES a cup of cold water to these little ones in the name of a disciple.

In the long history of God's mission on earth, in the long history of the Church in all of its variances, the vast majority of people are like Matthias – known only to God and a few others, living as faithfully as they can, serving in anonymity, and simply going on about their business as faithful witnesses. These are the foot soldiers of the Church. These are the ones who do the vast majority of the work. These are the 99 percent. These people are not to be neglected or treated with disdain by the so-called VIPs or other leaders of the church. These are the ones to whom we are to give in the name of a disciple.

In the Examination portion of a priestly ordination, the ordinand is charged to love and serve the people among whom they work, and to care alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. There are no, or should not be any, VIPs in the eyes of a priest. It is my job, then, to treat everyone fairly and offer cups of cold water in the name of Jesus to even the little ones. Who, by the way, may actually need it more than others.

But treating all fairly and offering cups of cold water to the the little ones isn't only my job. You all are counted as disciples. You all have been commissioned to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. You all also speak for Jesus. In the Letter of James, the author, writing to an unspecified group of believers, says, “If you take notice of one wearing fine clothes while denigrating one who is poor, have you not made distinctions?” Like me, it is your job to not distinguish but to offer cups of cold water even to the little ones.

We are being sent out to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. Some of us may become VIPs. Most of us will not. And while you may not be called to far off mission trips, or to become a “superstar Christian,” all of us are called to respect the dignity of every human being. It just may be that our greatest mission field is right here within these walls, welcoming the stranger, proclaiming the good news of God in Christ as St. John's understands it, and giving cups of cold water to the little ones on our midst.

It just may be that our acts of curing, cleansing, and restoring happen right here. It just may be that those cups of cold water we offer will allow those little ones to experience the Church as it was meant to be experienced.

In the name of Christ, may we proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore all people; VIPs and little ones alike.


Amen.

The Show Must Go On

Yesterday up at 0400 in order to meet our friends at the designated carpool site by 0530 to drive to Baltimore to catch a 0730 bus to NYC.

Spent the day in NYC visiting Trinity Church, the 9/11 memorial, caught a showing of "Kinky Boots," had a late lunch at a Mexican place (good food, slow service), walked through a bit of Times Square, walked down to where we would catch the bus home, walked back to a diner for dessert (dessert was okay, service was slow, bathrooms were disgusting), walked back to catch the 8 p.m. bus to Baltimore, arrived at 11:30, drove back to the designated carpool site, dropped friends off, drove home, brushed teeth, into bed at 1:40 a.m.

Up at 0600 in order to get ready for Sunday.

Mrs. Ref is staying home for this one.

There is a L--O--N--G nap coming in about 6 hours.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sermon; Proper 7A; Romans 6:1b-11

Two weeks ago we closed out the liturgical cycle with Trinity Sunday. Last week we moved into Ordinary Time with the sending of the disciples to proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. In Mtr. Jane's sermon she pointed out that this world was full of bad news, but went on to give us any number of ways we can do those very things the disciples did – proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore.

Last week I also discussed with the kids why we use different colors during the church year. Wrapped up in that little talk was the difference between the liturgical cycle and Ordinary Time. The liturgical cycle – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost – is focused on various events of Christ's life. From his birth to the giving of the Holy Spirit, liturgical time is event-focused.

Ordinary Time is different. First, it's called that because the weeks are counted in ordinal numbers – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Sunday after Pentecost, or Proper 6, 7, 8, 9, and so forth. Second, it doesn't focus on the events of Christ's life, but on the life of Christ's life. It's focused on learning to live with Christ, building our relationship with him, and growing as disciples. Which is why the color of the season is green, to symbolize growth.

We have come out of the liturgical cycle into Ordinary Time. A little over two months ago we celebrated the Day of Resurrection and Jesus' victory over death and crossing over into new life. At the Vigil that morning we baptized little Carl while also renewing our own baptismal vows. We once again promised to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. We once again promised to resist evil, repent when we sin, and return to the Lord. We promised to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We promised to respect the dignity of every human being. And as a physical remembrance, we were asperged with holy water, recalling our own baptism into Christ's death, resurrection, and crossing over to new life.

It is into this new life which we are sent. Last week Jesus sent the twelve disciples out to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. This is also the beginning of our new life in Christ, for we are also called to proclaim, cure, cleanse, and restore. And today's gospel makes clear that this is no easy task. But instead of focusing on today's gospel passage, I want to focus on the Epistle reading, because in this section of Romans, Paul is reminding us that we are made new. And because this passage from Romans sums up baptism, the main liturgical event of our lives, beautifully, this is a good place to begin our journey with Jesus.

“Should we continue in sin?” Paul asks rhetorically. This question is to advance his argument begun earlier in Chapters 3 and 5. What he's attacking is a creeping belief that if we've been baptized into the family of God, then, ultimately, it doesn't matter what we do because we are saved. Another way of putting this is, “The bigger the sin, the bigger example of God's grace.” David Koresh was preaching this kind of life. But, as one commentator put it, that's a shallow understanding of our baptismal transformation.

Our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection, however, isn't simply a get-out-of-jail-free card. Our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection doesn't give us free reign to do whatever we want, like some spoiled child who knows he or she will always be bailed out of trouble. Our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection doesn't permit us to compartmentalize our lives, living one way on Sunday, but a very different way Monday through Saturday.

Our baptism into that death and resurrection should bring about a primary change in our lives. Paul says that through our baptism we are dead to sin. Not that we are sinless, but that our baptism has destroyed that which has power over us. Before our baptism we were enslaved by the sin of the world. We were enslaved to a human definition of how the world should be – defined by force, revenge, and a me-first attitude. This was, and is, the sin of the world.

But our baptism changes us. We are transformed into a new way of being. We are, like the Israelites, living in a new country after having crossed the Jordan. We have been, like Christ, resurrected into a new life. Like the Israelites earlier, and like Christ before us, we have crossed through holy water into a new land, a new way of being, and into a new existence. The old ways of being have no hold on us, no claim to us, no shackles upon us.

Like the Israelites who could not go back to slavery, and like Jesus who can no longer go back to a life bound up in physical time and space, our baptism creates a new reality for us. Like slaves who died could no longer be controlled by their master, we are also dead to sin, being freed from its dominion.

That doesn't mean we don't sin, we do. It's what humans do best. But we should understand that sin has no dominion and no power over us. We should also recognize the need for repentance when we do sin. “Will you repent and turn again to the Lord?” All of this means that we avoid the shallow understanding that Paul is arguing against in today's Epistle reading – should we go on sinning so that grace may abound? Of course not, because this new, post-baptismal life requires seeing and living in new ways.

Like Israel before us, we have crossed through holy water.
We have been baptized into Christ's death.
We are now living, and will be resurrected at the end of the age, into a new way of living.
We have been claimed by God and are living in a new country.
We have been called to proclaim, to cure, to cleanse, and to restore.
We are called to live unordinarily in ordinary times.
Let us then follow Paul's admonition and Christ's calling and live our lives as if our baptism really matters.


Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

#$!)

There are days, and then there are days.

This is one of those days.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.