Deacon Carlos First Sermon

First Homily.
Deacon Carlos Londono.
Studying for the priesthood, Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Ministering at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Pewakee, WI.

April 28th, 2019.

26229815_2062153010733537_7972690073184852346_n(1)Today, I get to preach for the first time. And I am grateful to God that my first homily ever will be on His Mercy since today is Divine Mercy Sunday! And I am so grateful because I know that if I can stand in front of you this morning and preach it is because of his Mercy, because he had mercy on me. So, as I said, it is very fitting to preach on God’s mercy this morning.

So, here we go, the Mercy of God.

One day I was visiting my friend’s parents, the Colles. They own a farm where they have cattle and sheep. They day I was visiting they also had newborn lamb and, of course, I wanted to see the them! When I got to the farm, I was told three of them had lost their mother and they had to be bottle fed and so I asked if I could help out feeding them. When these little lambs saw me approaching, bottle in hand, they began crying because they knew they were going to get fed. And then I thought: thank God someone hears their cries of these lamb and comes to feed them every day.

This is the best image I’ve gotten so far to describe God’s mercy: He hears the cries of the poor. He truly hears the cries of the poor. And He wants us to do the same.

                                          Notice – Care – Take Action

This morning, I would like to propose a way for us to be merciful, to hear the cries of the poor. Three steps: notice, care and take action. In other words, notice the cries of others, care about them and do something about them.

Let’s see how this three steps are played out in the Word of God that we just heard proclaimed. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard that some people that had just become Christians were taking the sick out into the streets so that when Peter passed by, he could see them and heal them by the power of the Holy Spirit. These first Christians noticed the pain of these sick people, cared about it and did something to heal that pain. Had these sick men and women remained unknown, had their pain not been noticed by these new Christians, their cries would have not been heard at least in the way the first reading describes it.

So, I would like to ask a question: do we notice? Do we notice well? Do I notice the family member that is sad or in difficulty? do I notice my friend’s or my spouses’ pain?
When we notice, God notices as well!

Now, noticing should be accompanied by caring! I can notice things going on around me and not take the extra step of caring. The easy way out would be: “well, someone else will do something… or “well, life is hard anyways!” This might be the easy way out but it is not the Christian way.

Here is a second question: How much do I care about the things that I notice? How much do I care about my son’s or daughter’s bad day at school or my neighbor that has been sick for a few days now? Do I let these things affect me? Do I let them get to my heart and move me to compassion, to action?

Now, the action part. Yes, the work of mercy is also that, work. The first Christians from the first reading took the time and the effort to bring the sick people out into the streets, they laid them on cots and mats and as you can imagine this takes time, energy and resources.

One final question: am I willing to let go of my time, energy and resources to do the work of mercy? Am I willing to invest in doing something about the things I notice and hopefully care about?

Brothers and sisters, doing this kind of work might leave us wounded sometimes. Look at the Heart of Jesus: it was pierced! If we live out mercy, if we notice, if we care and are moved to action: to feeding the hungry, to consoling the sad, to visiting the sick and the lonely, to being kind! If we do all these things we might get our hearts pierced as well. We might run out of energy, or confront people’s ingratitude or standoffishness and get called “weird” maybe.

If that ever happens to you, I invite you to come to this altar. Here, God not only asks us to be merciful but He provides us with the means to be so! And what are these means? His flesh, his blood: Himself! He feeds us with himself so that we may be so full with his life, that we may do the things that He does: like noticing well, caring deeply and doing the work of mercy.

This is quiet the challenge for all of us but it is also quiet the joy! Jesus promised happiness to those who are merciful! “Blessed [happy] the merciful, for the will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). So, do we want to be happy, brothers and sisters? Here is the secret: notice, care and be moved to action.

 

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“Grandparent’s Day” Prayer

thYou received a prefix to your first title because your children now have several of their own. If you live long enough, another prefix will be added that is greater than “grand.”

Those who now exist and who earned you that first prefix wishes to ask you what the Great Flood was like and if the Garden of Eden is as lovely as people say it was.

Those who now exist wonder why many of your sentences often begin with “Back.” (“Back in my day,” “Back when I was your age,” “Back before you were born,” My back is killing me.”) Those who now exist will forever remember the scents of your home. Uniquely yours. Old furniture? Old Spice? Who knows but the redolence remains.

Spending an overnight with you was a real treat during those grade school years. Only I was chosen to spend the evening and morning hours with you. We went to bed waaay too early, and you snored, but I didn’t mind because it meant that you were still alive. You provided treats that parents would never have permitted which only made you more special to young mouths. You wear outdated clothes, but I guess it matches your hundred of years older than me. Also, thanks for upstaging my parents every year with your Christmas gift. You sure know how to shop.

You tell stories that seem to go on forever. I don’t always understand your stories, but I love watching how intently you tell them. Hearing your accounts for the third or fourth time helps me know what you’re trying to say. I don’t mind.

You never get angry at me, only at my parents. I like that about you. I can’t get too mad at my parents. There’s no “time out” given to you after an argument. You’ve said that you especially love us because you get to spend fun time with us, and then we go home. I understand it’s that early bedtime thing again. (Although, I remember one time when I said, “Sh_t” to you and I discovered the delightful taste of Ivory soap.) You had me do chores for you like picking raspberries in your garden when the grocery store is full of them and hedging the lawn which just seemed dumb.

You can’t seem to stop complimenting us. Whether it’s the oversized purple elephant picture or the “I don’t know what it is” picture on the refrigerator door, you smile and always say, “Wow, look at that!”

You could ease up on the hugs and kisses, but I guess our being alive means that you are too.

Thank you, grandma and grandpa, or in our family, it was Oma and Opa. Either way, it’s grand to have known you as we extend the length of your life with grand thoughts and great memories.

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“Jesus, Make Up Your Mind!”

metaphor simile[1]Oh, wait! I got it. Jesus says, We’re the fish caught on the correct side of the boat. No. We’re all branches to his vine. No. We’re sheep, and he’s our shepherd. No, still. Here it is.

We’re the burning lamp atop a Steinhafel’s table. No, still, still. Silly me, we’re the mustard seed that grows into a humongous tree. Or, are we the clay and he the potter?

Dust! That’s it. We’re dust until he breathed life into us. Oh, wait once again. How could I forget, we’re the Prodigal Son asking for forgiveness. Or, on second thought, are we that small, little man in the tree looking for a glimpse of salvation. Now some of you may be Lazarus, thought dead but alive and well. Or, how about being pregnant at 86, like Elizabeth. Or sadly, sharing your husband as Sarah did.

Should I continue? No, that’s enough. All the characters of our lives are captured in that mystical book we call the Bible. They’re all there for our reflection and application upon our own lives – at different times and in varied situations. All those Biblical people are dead. Oddly enough, or grace-filled enough, those same characters sometimes continue to live within our neighbors, family, friends, and … yes, even within ourselves.

It’s simple to view the “mustard seed” in a second grader receiving the Eucharist for the first time this weekend. Yet, what about the 86-year-olds who also have new seeds to plant during this new chapter in their long book called, “War and Peace?”

I imagined Zacchaeus as a physically very tall and proud man. He only became small and needing to climb a tree because he thought little of people and treated them that same way for his own personal, financial gain.

I definitely know that we are all that unnamed Prodigal Son because his name can be any of ours. We make up a confession and begin to spit it out, but God kills the fatted calf in our honor because he’s forgiven us before we can finish our speech. We admitted our wrongdoing. That’s all that God commands of us. How about the crucifixion, we’ve mostly likely been both thieves, one demanding and the other admitting.

I’ve never understood us being “fish” or “sheep” in the eyes of Jesus. Both creatures are foolish and silly. Yet, both also are committed to community. A union of purpose and spirit. And, both needing a leader. But, I guess, even one fish and a single sheep can get wrapped up in oneself, self-serving, and thoughtless in uncaring and uncharitable ways.

Is this about us? I thought we were talking about fish and sheep? Oh, wait.

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Walter’s Fireplace

IMG_0433It was the unproclaimed center of our family home. Some days, it lit proudly, but most days it contained a soft, quiet glow.

Yes, there were other rooms in our family home but that one, single place encompassed and measured our growing-up years. We sat next to it and listened to the crackles when it was a full blaze. As the years wore on, it provided a soundless flicker that always reminded the five of us that it was still working.

That’s five plus two counting our parents. It was the family fireplace in the kitchen. Why we called it a “family fireplace” escapes me other than to remind the seven of us that it belonged to us all, never one. It was added on when they bought the house to expand the kitchen. A lounge chair was permanently placed parallel to it, and it became designated for our Dad. Nothing territorial about that chair. We’d sit in until he came, but he’d always say, “Stay there, it’s okay.” We gladly got up to provide him his throne, I mean his chair.

Unlike a royal throne no edicts were given or heads lost. The fireplace and his chair was the quiet sanctuary for our cigar smoking Dad. He sat there to let his flavorful smoke rise up the chimney and away from the kitchen. (I still can smell his cigar exhale, sorry Dad.) When sitting there, his words were few. His eyes and smiles spoke his many feelings. Married late, our friends thought we lived with our grandparents so raising five children must have been a challenge.

Us grade school children would share our report cards in front of him, and the fire. Our adolescents years compelled honesty even if we had a different version of the story to tell him. He’d listen. He would listen. (Did I mention, “listening?”) Then, entering adulthood with forming opinions about life and religion, his careful eyes would absorb but not understand our testing beliefs. In religion, his sad eyes would always win about some abandoning the Catholic Church. Around its glowing light was conversations, or more accurately a defense attorney’s opening agrument, with contrite confessions about divorce, wrong jobs, “The love of my life boyfriend doesn’t like me,” the lost religious vocation, the found religious vocation.

Since being an accountant for his professional career the real wood was economically replaced by compressed, synthetic faux wood. Cut into six pieces instead of the whole log, he figured this was a better use of the fireplace. What didn’t change or alter was the quiet presence of this man, holding a cigar and staring out the kitchen window. An affirming smile for the grades, a perplexing look for the pending divorce or wrong job and a downward heartbroken posture for the Church that he truly loved.

Mother was the spokesperson for those two, and we heeded her every word or tried too. His was harder to read because of his silence, but it’s that damn fireplace that captured our attention, every single time. The chair across from him served as both confessional, celebration and just, “How are you, Dad?”

In now my later years, I can picture him staring outside and praying for our benefit without us ever knowing about it. I’m confident that he did. I find myself staring out my window and praying for all those entrusted to my care. I can’t afford a fireplace and don’t smoke cigars, but I suspect that his tree did not fall far from this apple.

To Walter. Thank you for the quiet of your demeanor, thank you for never judging or weighing the five of us. You may have mistaken me for the name of our family cat, but I will never, ever forget the fireplace that placed you, always, within the center of our lives.

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“Reasonable Doubt”

153fish“There has to be a reason,” we say about the car accident, being fired, battling cancer or winning the lottery. I’ve never believed in reasons. I like the phrase, “What we do to life and what life does to us.”

It’s not the meaning before something happens but its meaning and application to our lives after. Where God’s finger pokes into our lives is a mystery to all us all. It’s anyone’s guess. The guidance of the Trinity is a no-brainer to Christian believers. I’ll never say at a funeral that God “Called so and so home,” or “God wanted an angel in heaven.” (I think that’s against the law in most states.)

It’s the 153 large fish that caught my eye in this Sunday’s Gospel. I’m not an accountant (I don’t balance my checkbook!) but I know all kind of number games can be played with any number. One author attributes that figure to those blessed by Jesus in the Gospels. You guessed it, 153! Marks gets three, Matthew ups it to forty-seven, Luke wins the door prize with ninety-four and John brings up the rear with a mere nine. “Whew, that’s settled, let’s get on to something else.”

That’s too easy and it’s boring. There’s no mystery when a mystery is solved. The mystery of life is carefully held like a priceless china cup. Meaning and purpose are what propels our lives toward God’s purpose. There’s nothing “reasonable” about our crazy actual/faith life. Many say the reason is to bring us back to God. I disagree. I say it’s all about walking together in the mystery of life, with each other (the Body of Christ), which then leads us to back to God. Sound reasonable to you?

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Weddings & Music

Music. The notes and melodies that influences or confirms how our culture lives in a paticular time. Whether it’s Frank Sinatra or The Beatles, music so very often speaks of love as “all or nothing.” “My life will end if you leave me.” “Without you, I am nothing.” (So much for personal development.)

In 1965, Glen Campbell sang…(facing the women in the bridal party)
“She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles, That weren’t there yesterday, And thinks of the young man that she almost married, What would he think if he saw her this way? She picks up her apron in little girl-fashion, As something comes into her mind, Slowly starts dancing remembering her girlhood, And all of the boys she had waiting in line Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife, You see everywhere any time of the day, An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me.”

Ohhhh, to be a married man during those glorious years. Wait! Genesis says that the two shall be one. A mutual union that is blessed, affirmed and unbreakable by God. As Christ is united to the Church, so man and woman are united.

Now, let’s go back to 1963 when Jack Jones made a major hit out of…
(facing the men in the bridal party, I asked one of the men if he heard of Jack Jones and he said, “No!” I told him to Google him after the reception.)
“Hey, little girl, Comb your hair, fix your make-up, Soon he will open the door, Don’t think because, There’s a ring on your finger, You needn’t try any more. For wives should always be lovers, too..Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you. I’m warning you, Day after day, There are girls at the office, And men will always be men, Don’t send him off, With your hair still in curlers, You may not see him again. Hey, little girl, Better wear something pretty, Something you’d wear to go to the city, And dim all the lights, Pour the wine, start the music, Time to get ready for love.”

St. Paul says, “honor each other in every respect.”

Marriage is sacred union. It is not a battle and doesn’t care itself for hair cullers or a pretty dress but that elusive but venerable word: love – mutual (one more time, mutual) in sharing…believing in each other…trusting each other and the worst of all, those careful risks taken each day to know each other a little bit better. “Those careful risks…” They are found not only in this sacrament but in all seven. It’s during my priesthood (believe me), in our baptism and confirmation with our sometimes battles with God, in the confessional (the last place any of us wish to be but need to be), in the Eucharist when we say our “Yes” not to our own, selfish whims but to the glorious whims of our Creator. And the Anointing of the Sick, destroying the bridge between earth and heaven.

Let’s turn now to that great philosopher and theologian, Stephen Sondheim (actually a Broadway composer) and his musical messages, this April 27. At this time. In this holy place. A date and time only your future husband with faithfully forget – each year. With family and friends as witnesses, together with our combined prayers and support for them for the rest of their lives, please listen to these lasting, enduring musical lyrics for their future life together.

“Somebody, hold me too close, Somebody, hurt me too deep,  Somebody, sit in my chair And ruin my sleep, And make me aware, Of being alive, Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much, Somebody, know me too well,  Somebody, pull me up short, And put me through hell, And give me support, For being alive, Make me alive.

Make me confused, Mock me with praise, Let me be used, Vary my days. But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love, Somebody, force me to care, Somebody, make me come through, I’ll always be there, As frightened as you, To help us survive, Being alive, Being alive, Being alive!

____________

“Marry me a little, Love me just enough, Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough Keep a tender distance, So we’ll both be free
That’s the way it ought to be, I’m ready!

Marry me a little, Do it with a will, Make a few demands, I’m able to fulfill
Want me more than others, Not exclusively, That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready! I’m ready now!

You can be my best friend, I can be your right arm
We’ll go through a fight or two—
No harm, no harm, We’ll look not too deep, We’ll go not too far
We won’t have to give up a thing, We’ll stay who we are

Marry me a little, Love me just enough
Warm and sweet and easy, Just the simple stuff
Keep a tender distance, So we’ll both be free
That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready!

Marry me a little, Body, heart, and soul
Passionate as hell, But always in control
Want me first and foremost, Keep me company
That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready! I’m ready now!

Oh, how gently we’ll talk, Oh, how softly we’ll tread
All the stings, The ugly things, We’ll keep unsaid
We’ll build a cocoon, Of love and respect
You promise whatever you like
I’ll never collect

Right?
Okay, then
I’m ready
I’m ready now
I’m ready!”

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April’s Easter & Weather

Easter Joy to all of you. You wouldn’t think that joy needs an adjective. Joy seems to stand proudly on its own.

April, snow. Snow, April. There’s two words that don’t go together. We Wisconsinites seem to plan our days around the weather. Or the weather appears to plan our days; conscious or unconscious. You wake up to sunshine and tend to treat others that way all day – “nice shoes” and “I like your smile.” You wake up to gloom and your unexpected mood suddenly becomes predictable, “Hurry up” to the cashier,” and a swear word to that slow driver on Capitol Drive.

Wisconsinites are a peculiarly, optimistic people. “Nice day today,” you say to your friend. She responds, “Yeah, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.”

So, about all of this, I wrote a letter to God.

“Dear God of All Seasons,

We know You’re out there, somewhere; we just can’t seem to find You. You don’t seem to live in Wisconsin.
Come, fill us with Your light and warmth. You tempted us sometimes with double the normal temperatures one day but not the next. Please, don’t tease us. We know that You are our light and our warmth. In You we reside and rely. Just share some of that great warmth with us Wisconsin folks, please? (For heaven’s sakes, we put our shovels away for the season.) I find that people are nicer and more welcoming when pleasant weather abounds. It sounds sad to say it that way but, I guess it’s true. I admit it even about myself.
Lord, I want my attitude, my disposition, my words and deeds to be reflective of Your unconditional love for us. And not be weather dependent, whatever the weather may be.
Your son showed us how his body and blood can determine and affect our moods and behaviors. That’s the temperature we want for both ourselves and those we encounter each day.
After all, You’ve told us that we’re Your barometer in this world.  We control the temperature when gossip begins, when tempers flair and when anger or frustration become easy solutions.  We are Your barometer in this broken, fragmented, cool and cloudy world of ours.
So God, “weather” it’s rain, snow, sunshine or slush, be our warmth. Be our sun. Be our warming weather. With Your help, in Wisconsin may the weather always be, (no, within our hearts may it always be) 68 degrees, mostly sunny with a 20% chance of rain in the morning and then clear skies throughout the afternoon and evening.
Love, Your Badger state friends

PS. Perhaps joy needs that adjective after all – ‘Easter’s’ joy, all year ‘round.”

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Lent & Easter Combined

the_shadow_knows_by_e_mannAl Jolson was wrong when he wrote and sang, “And when it’s twelve o’clock, we climb the stair, we never knock, for nobody’s there…just me…” After the resurrection, Easter healings began and the sick were placed outside “so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.” (Acts)

It’s the extension of you when the sun is bright. You’re unable to step on it or run around it. It remains illuminated, even if in darker colors. The impressions we make or receive are like a shadow. Those sick hope that even a shade of Peter can cure their aliment. Now, that’s Easter hope!

“Make a good first impression,” mom tells you before your first job interview. A “lasting impression” is always hoped to be in life’s positive column. You turn around, and it looks back at you. (If you don’t see yours then you may wish to grab a mirror and hope your breath appears.) Lent’s forty days gives way to forty more of Christ’s remaining. Lent’s introspection leads to Easter’s expression. “No shadow of a doubt,” your lawyer tells the jurors. Funerals sadly say that “life is but a fleeting shadow that does not endure” leading toward eternal life.

During these forty, now glorious, days of death’s defeat, can our shadow reflect who we are – both to ourselves and each other? “For nobody’s there” is simply inaccurate. We make our mark on others whether in the grocery or communion line. “Shadow” is also used for the unknown parts of us that are very much a part of us.

Pray that as Orson Welles said in his mellifluous voice, “The Shadow Knows,” our shadow can make complete our Lent and Easter experiences.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln

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Golf’s Redemption

TigerWoodsOct2011Do you blame your guardian angel for not guarding you enough? Or, in the case of golf, is it your caddie? Or do you just throw your clubs (religion) away? Do you cheat – there’s always an excuse in both sports and in life. Do you whine? (It’s the priest’s fault, not mine.)

What if, as Thomas Friedman writes in The New York Times, you say two words to your guardian angel, I mean caddie: “Watch this. And then they pull off a remarkable shot that winds through the trees, over the hill and past the sand trap, avoids the pond on the left and lands right in the middle of the putting green.” Tiger Woods’ 11th hole.

Religion and golf. I don’t follow sports but any movie about sports, I never miss. “The Legend of Beggar Vance,” “41,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Hoosiers.” I’ve seen them all more than once. Now there’s “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner, a wonderful movie.

Religion calls for a union of “body, mind and spirt,” a worthy, fitting tribute from the created to the Creator. Augusta’s “perilous 16th hole, where he launched his ball on the perfect arc over the water, softly curbing right to left with the terrain and then landing the precise two-foot-diameter circle so that it would then roll 20 feet down the slope and stop 15 inches below the hole.” Golf’s union is “geography, geometry, physics, and psychology all working together in perfect unison.”

Speaking of union, Presidents Trump and Obama finally found agreement, both twittered Tiger with admiration. “One small step for mankind,” anyone?

From early success to a growing arrogance to snobby hubris to forced humiliation (is there any other kind?), to multiple back surgeries, philanderer (what a nice word for a stupid gigolo), divorce, DUI, addiction to painkillers, spine fusion and redemption at 43 years old. (Midlife changes people!)

Finally, life’s circle. His dad hugs him after his last victory and Sunday Tiger, the dad, hugged his two children complete with a green sportcoat for each weekday.

“Body, mind and spirit” is the Church’s recipe for not a win but for honoring  our Creator. And, it’s a good idea to have a birdie in your back pocket on judgment day. Just in case.

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Palm Sunday

Palm_sunday-2013-wallpaperOur holiest of days next week is like the unholiest of a family’s yearly obligatory, optional dinner gathering.  It’s obligatory because it’s family, it’s optional but they’ll talk about you if you don’t show up. (“And, bring a casserole to pass!”) Let the drama begin.

There’s the talkative aunt, thrice married and now dating. There’s that prodigal son with his now, new fourth investment venture that “Can’t miss”. There’s the quiet mother preparing supper and listening to the stories of others, no one asking her about hers. In the corner of the living room is the baffled college-age daughter, excellent grades, but wondering whether to remain a Catholic or not. Dad’s seated in his favorite chair watching all the excitement around him. Jokes are told that have been told every year. Conversations rise louder in equal proportion to the alcohol. Dad’s tired from his day’s work but happy to, again, gather them all together. Children are running around the house wondering why all those old folks are interrupting their supper. Mom told them that it’s a special night, once a year, every year.

Once a year we gather together all the characters that make up our dramatic Christian drama. We think there’s a central character, Jesus Christ. Yet, he’s surrounded next week by all kinds of sorts. There’s that guy running to the ER with a missing ear. Those folks around the fire asking Peter to declare a faith he has yet to own. Then there’s that guy with clean hands ignoring responsibility and setting Anthony Quinn free. And, how about that unbelieving guy with a sword at the end of our story who becomes a believer? Of course, our drama would not be complete without the guy who proudly accepts thirty pieces when he could have easily gotten fifty. (Lacking in belief and poor in business.) Like those jokes from relatives, we hear words we only hear once a year – Kidron valley, scabbard, Caiaphas, praetoriam, tethered, Stone Pavement, and the worst of all, but the most beautiful is: “Golgatha.”

It’s family. During our lives, we can be all the characters in our Christian drama. When we finally come to our humble and worthy senses, then we can all turn to Golgatha, that place of transformation. That place when we finally connect and unite our earthly lives to our heavenly life in God. That’s family…and that’s a meal worth celebrating.

So, take your palm and wave them away in the parking lot. Next week we get to gather together again that biblical family for a renewing adventure – but it is no longer their adventure in faith; theirs’  is done, but it is ours, our very own faith adventure; within this exact time and within this very place.

(walking away, I return to say,) Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t forget the name Mary Magdalene…next Sunday, she gets dessert first.

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