Monday, July 30, 2007

Branded, Bathed and Claimed

We had a baptism at Mount Vernon Place yesterday morning. When we gathered for worship yesterday, we welcomed a new family into the midst of our congregation and a precious child into the household of God.
Out of all of the events a pastor gets to participate in or provide leadership for, baptisms are my favorite. Allowing water to touch the head of an adult or a child as I say the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" sends chills up and down my spine every time. Each time I participate in a baptism, I realize again that I am not worthy of being a pastor. Every time I ask God to pour forth the Holy Spirit upon the water for baptism or upon the bread and the juice for the Eucharist, I realize that there is this extraordinary power that has nothing to do with me - but that somehow, I get to share the power. What a blessing.

I love participating in a baptism! Baptisms remind me of the newness of life that is possible for all of us through Christ. Through baptism we are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and receive a portion of our inheritance as children of God. And, all of this is a gift - a gift offered to us without price. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy of being cleansed of our sin. There is no amount of money that we can pay for membership in Christ's Kingdom. We are all welcome -- branded, bathed and claimed -- regardless of who we are, what we have done, or what we have left undone.

But there is something else I love about a baptism. At a baptism, the entire congregation promises to help raise the child. The entire congregation vows to tell the child the stories of Jesus. We all promise to life a live that demonstrates to others what it looks like to love God and neighbor. We promise to always welcome the child home - to be there for the child when life seems uncertain, when he is doubting his faith, or when he needs to be loved and accepted just as he is.

And through all of this -- I am able to remember my baptism and to be thankful. What a precious gift.

Thank you, God, for Ryan and his family - the newest members of Mount Vernon Place. May we tell them the stories of Jesus - not only with our words but with our actions. May we be the family he needs to support him, love him and encourage him in this journey called life. May we respond to the grace you lavish upon us each day by becoming the people you have called us to be. What a privilege. Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Trophy

Two new signs were installed at the church last week. The signs are rather large and imposing. No one can possibly walk by the property without seeing them. The signs were created by the new owners of the property as the first stage of advertising for the new building - 901 K. The signs are designed to capture the attention of future tenants who may wish to occupy a space in the new building attached to the church.

There is one thing on the sign that got me very excited - the delivery date. The date mentioned on the sign is second quarter 2009. This timeline is a little earlier than what we anticipated. I later learned that this date is the "substantial completion date" and not necessarily the date when we can all move into the building. Oh well...

In addition to the delivery date, there are other words on the sign that captured my attention - "Trophy Office Space." The new building in which the church will own and occupy 25,000 square feet will be filled with trophy office space. I have learned that in order for office space to be labeled "trophy" it must have stunning architecture, a great location, a beautiful lobby, and impeccable service. If a building is to be considered a trophy building, it must be the kind of building that stands out - over and above the rest.

I'll be the first to admit that the signs make me a little uncomfortable. I am still getting used to the idea that this place will be the best of the best. Still, I hope the signs achieve their purpose of attracting future tenants to 901 K - people who will love this part of downtown as much as we do. We want the project to be successful for everyone who is involved.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what a trophy church looks like. Many people would say that in order to be a trophy church, the church must have thousands of members - the church must be a megachurch. Other people might say that in order to be trophy church the church must have cutting-edge programs for every age group and multi-media presentations whenever the congregation gathers. Still other people would say that in order to be a trophy church you must occupy a trophy building - a building that is the best of the best.

For the last three weeks, we have been examining the Acts 2 church in our Sunday morning worship. The Acts 2 church is one of the first churches. It is formed after the apostle Peter preaches a cutting -edge sermon that cuts people to the heart. The people respond to what they have heard by changing their lives. They repent. They turn around from the ways of the world and walk towards the newness that Christ offers. They form an amazing community. Acts 2:42 reads, "They devote themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." The chapter continues, "Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

The people in this community of faith devote themselves to learning as much as they can about God's word. They enjoy one another's company and fellowship often. They break bread together - sharing meals together. They pray together. And, they make sure that every one is taken care of. They make sure that no one has a need that is not tended to.

Can you imagine such a community? I can. I have been imagining such a community on the corner of 9th and Massachusetts since I first learned about the possibility of being appointed as the pastor of Mount Vernon Place. I have been imagining a community that studies the Bible together in an effort to grow in our faith. I have been imagining a community that enjoys being with one another and accepts one another just as they are. I have been imagining a community that breaks bread together - both at the Lord's Supper, in front of a movie on Friday nights, and at potluck dinners on Sunday afternoons. And, I have been imagining a community that looks both inside its doors and especially outside its doors to see where there are people who are in need. The people in my vision then go and take care of the needs of others.

This idea is my idea of a trophy church. Perhaps a trophy church will one day occupy a piece of the trophy office space. Can you imagine? I can.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Help! I am Marrying the Pastor!!!!

Craig and I have been doing a lot of wedding planning in recent weeks. We have booked the wedding site, the reception site, a florist, and a photographer. We have looked at websites for honeymoons and song lists for DJs. We have ordered samples of invitations and started to compose guest lists. We have laughed and we have argued. We have taken delight and we have gotten a little overwhelmed. It has been a journey.

In the midst of all of the wedding planning, we have also had several conversations about what it means to be married to the pastor.

I have long realized that it would take a very special man to want to spend his life with me. As a United Methodist, I am an itinerant pastor - someone who has vowed to move when called - to pick up our belongings, our children, and our lives and move to the place where the bishop feels I can best serve. As a pastor, I have taken a vow to practice celibacy until married. As a pastor, I am on call when there is an emergency - I can be called out an any hour of the day or night to the hospital, to a home, to the roadside. As a pastor, I live a life that is often scrutinized by others. People watch me. They listen to what comes from my mouth. They look at my grocery cart to see what I am buying. They examine my dress. As a pastor, there are certain expectations that are placed upon my life that are not placed upon the lives of others - I am to live a model life. And, as a pastor, I know that Sundays go much more smoothly if I am in bed by 10:00 on Saturday night which means that we miss parties and opportunities to go away for the weekend.

There are times when I wonder why anyone would want to live this life. There are times when the pressures of this life consume the best of me, and I want to throw my arms into the air and go into real estate sales or property development instead. But then something happens. I stand before the eclectic flock God has given me to serve and share the Good News with them only to have someone tell me what a difference the words made in their week. I go to the hospital room and recognize that I was not only invited there but I was summoned there - I was summoned to be in a place where life begins and life ends - to walk on ground that is so holy that no one really deserves to walk upon it. I hold a baby in my arms and repeat the words, "I baptize you in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and realize that there is this extraordinary power that does not belong to me but that I have been entrusted to share. I offer to people a bit of bread and a sip of juice, watching as the one who is partaking realizes that her sins are forgiven once and for all. I listen as people confess their sins and then joyfully walk into the new life Christ offers. And, I journey alongside men and women who are searching for something larger than themselves. These reasons are why I love being a pastor. These reasons are the ones that give me joy even though I cannot escape to New York City or the beach for the weekend.

But what about this man who has accepted my call? How is it that my partner adapts to this radical and unusual lifestyle?

Craig has done a beautiful job of accepting me for who I am and trying to understand my vocation. He has been editing my sermons each week since early in our relationship (a practice that I have learned is best done before Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. when Craig might respond, "Well, it's not your best work," leaving me up late into the night trying to make it better!). He has continued to practice his faith in his Catholic Church - a church that means a great deal to him and a church that he cherishes - while coming to Mount Vernon Place when I or someone else really wants him there. Yet, Craig has also made significant sacrifices. He has not gone to a party on a Saturday night in months. He knows that there are challenges with planning a wedding weekend when the bride is a pastor. He has gone away on a Friday, knowing that he would love to stay until Sunday but that we have to return on Saturday. He has allowed me to be at the church on some evenings when we would have rather enjoyed the evening together.

Oftentimes, people express gratitude to their pastors. They send the pastor notes of thanksgiving or appreciation. They bring the pastor gifts at Christmas. I am learning, however, that the one who stands alongside the pastor has offered just as much of his or her life to the church as the pastor. The one who is married to the pastor has given an equal sacrifice. The one who stands with the pastor is, well, an absolute treasure - a one of a kind - a gift from God.

Thank you, Craig, for your willingness to marry the pastor - to journey with me on this road called ministry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Growing Up

When I graduated from junior high school and walked into the doors of Rock Bridge High School for the first time in 1996, I thought I was grown up. I had made one leap - a step from the doors of one school and into the doors of a school where people were making big decisions for their lives. I was "grown up."

I soon learned that there was a lot of pain associated with high school. People still teased me. I still struggled to fit in - to find a group of people where I could truly be myself. I was often left out of school dances. I was not invited to become a part of the club for popular girls. I ached at times, and I discovered that I was not as grown up as I thought. There were still times when I wanted nothing more than to crawl into the arms of my parents or simply sit at home.

When I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and went to college, I thought I was grown up. This was the milestone I had been waiting for - the one that would mark my becoming an adult. I loved college. College was a gift to me in so many ways. It is the place where I flourished. Still, there were times when I was hurt or lonely. There were times when I wanted nothing more than to go home and be in the all-embracing arms of my mother or father.

College graduation brought me to Washington. My time in Washington sent me to seminary. Seminary then sent me out into the world to proclaim the Good News. Throughout each step there have been times to buy a house and times to sell a house, times to enter a relationship and times to end a relationship, times to save money and times to ask for some assistance. There have been heart aches and body aches. It seems as though no matter how old we are, there are always times when life presents us with growth opportunities - whether we want them or not.

Last Wednesday we took our weekly morning Bible study from the church to a retirement community in Northern Virginia. The construction at the church has taken away our parking, making it very difficult for our older adults to get into the city during the week. We have therefore moved the group study to a place where three of the participants live and a place where everyone else can find a parking spot. Our Bible study that typically attracts six or seven people grew to eleven people on Wednesday morning. We were able to greet many new faces, welcoming them into the midst of our fold.

We studied the Bible for an hour, with Nathan leading us on a discussion of Jeremiah. We then got to the time where we ask everyone in the room, "How can we pray for you this week?" As each person shared, I was reminded that our "growing up" is never really over - that there are still aches and pains associated with life transitions no matter what age we are - whether we are 16 or 86.

One person asked for prayers for her husband who has Parkinson's and her mother who is 103, in addition to asking for comfort as she adjusts to life in her new community with her husband being cared for in another state.

One person asked that at the age of 85 he would be the man his mother wanted him to be.

Two people asked for prayers for their great-children who are caught in the seduction of alcohol or in the middle of a child custody battle.

And one person asked that he would be a better Christian.

No matter how old we are, we still have times when we want nothing more to be held by a parent who puts their arms around us and says, "Everything is going to be okay. Do not worry. I am with you, and I am going to remain with you through the storm."

While our parents may not alway be around to offer their arms of love and tender words of mercy, we do have a God who is both father and mother - a parent who will never ever leave us or forsake us. We have a God who is always far more ready to comfort us than we are able to ask for comfort. We have someone to whom we can always return.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, July 09, 2007


We celebrated a birthday at Mount Vernon Place yesterday. Howard Martin turned 99 years old. Howard joined Mount Vernon Place in the 1940s when he came to Washington from Norfolk, Virginia. A lifelong Methodist, it did not take him long to find the bustling community alive and well at Mount Vernon Place. He'll be quick to tell you all about the church and how it grew in the 1940s and 50s under the leadership of Dr. John Rustin. And, Howard has played a crucial role in the church since he joined. He is part of the reason why MVPUMC hosted the Geriatric Daycare Center, a day facility for older adults in DC who suffer with Alzheimer's, Dementia, arthritis and loneliness, many of whom are at or below the poverty level. He is one of the reasons why the church has long supported ministries for the poor and suffering in Washington. And, he is one of the reasons that the doors of Mount Vernon Place are still open today - he has not once given up on his church even though he has watched the membership go from over 4500 people in 1960 to less than 100 individuals today. In fact, when his children tried to get him to move to Texas, he said there was no way he was going to leave his church. His church is his life - his family - an integral part of his story.

I have been blessed to share a few hours with Howard every Wednesday. He is part of our weekly Bible study, and he and another member, Lois, drive in from Northern Virginia to downtown Washington each Wednesday morning for Bible study. And, it is this place where I have grown to love and appreciate Howard the most.
It was at Bible study that Howard brought me a book on how to be a better orator. He told me, "You can be the best preacher in the city if you will just reach this book." He then said, "When Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address he did not say 'Four score and seven years ago' as fast as he could. Instead, he said, 'Fooooouuuurrrr Scccoooorreee and Seeevvveeennn Yeeeaaarrrssss Agggoooo.' You get the point? And while I have not read the book, Howard tells me that he can understand me better now - that I have learned to slow down so he can hear me.
It was at Bible study where I learned the concerns of Howard's heart. We close Bible study each week asking each person what they want us to pray for. Howard's request is almost always the same, "I just want God to help me be a better person." He'll then be quick to point out the places where God has blessed him through the years - with three sons, good health, lots of friends, a great church, and plenty of security. If he ever asks for a prayer for himself, it is for God to watch over him when he drives - that God will keep him from getting a ticket or an accident because he wants to keep his driver's licence. And, Lois, a 93 year old, is the one who keeps him awake when he is driving!
Howard's licence plate reads, "RUALERT." While we have laughed that the people following him need to be alert behind this 99 year old man who is driving his car, I also believe that RUALERT could stand for something else.
Howard is always alert to God's presence in his life. He knows that every perfect gift comes from God above. He realizes that all he has belongs to God, and that he is a steward of it - his time, his health, his body, his resources. He understands that the greatest joy on this earth is helping another person. He is alert to all of this goodness and grace.
Perhaps we could all learn a lesson from Howard. RUALERT?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Some People Go to Church Every Day

I spent time last weekend with my grandparents in Missouri. Grandma and Grandpa have been married for 66 years and they still farm just south of the Iowa line. While Grandma is legally blind, she knows the lay of the land well enough to mow the lawn so perfectly that you can see the lines coming down from the old red barn.

The red barn was one of my favorite places as a child. It is a place where we would go every morning to gather eggs with Grandma, check on the young livestock, and feed the countless kittens who slept there at night. And while the contents of the barn have changed significantly during the years, there are some things that never change.

We had biscuits and gravy every morning on the farm last weekend. If I was not awake already, someone was knocking on my door at 6:45 to tell me that breakfast was almost ready. Once the biscuits, gravy and sausage had been consumed, Grandma reminded us that there was cake and cookies in the kitchen - eating cake and cookies after breakfast is perfectly normal at Grandma and Grandpa's house!

Grandma and Grandpa still create an amazing partnership. Grandma cooks and Grandpa does the dishes. Since Grandma's eyesight has deteriorated, Grandpa reads the mail, papers and magazines to Grandma, allowing her to learn more than she ever wanted to know about Grandpa's favorite subjects. And, Grandpa still thinks that this world is "going to hell in a hand basket." Things are only getting worse, according to Grandpa. The only chance of things getting better is if a Democrat is elected President in 2008, according to him.

And, Grandma and Grandpa will tell you that they go to church every day. While they rarely walk inside the doors of a church building, they will tell you how every day is an opportunity to worship God when one is in the middle of such beautiful creation. The yellow covering the body of the finches catches Grandma's eyes enough to let her know they are nearby. The smell of freshly cut crass is like incense pouring out of a sanctuary. The view from the screened porch of the sun rising above the horizon is enough to send forth God's presence upon her. "With all of this, who needs to go to church?" Grandma asks.

I left the farm early last Sunday morning to drive to Kansas City. The sun was starting to rise. I was the first one on the gravel road that day (and perhaps the only car to drive down the road since it was a Sunday). As a result, I saw about 15 bunnies go across the road. I then saw birds of all colors and sizes fly into the air. And, I looked back at the white farm house and the red barn one more time.

I later went to worship at a large church in Kansas City. And while the worship was beautiful and impressive, my mind kept returning to scenes from the farm.

"The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it." Psalm 24:1

Monday, July 02, 2007

Casts, Crutches and Cancer

We concluded a ten-week sermon series yesterday on "Why Does the Bible Include That?" This series has been a blessing to me as I have wrestled with so many issues and verses that raise more questions than they do answers. In the last two and one-half months, we have talked about divorce, homosexuality, money, abortion, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, submission, and God's chosen people. And while I look forward to the next series, I am a little sad to see this one come to an end.

Yesterday's sermon received several comments and provoked many people to share their thoughts with me. Here it is:

Casts, Crutches and Cancer: Living with Illness and Disabilities:

On a Sunday in January I asked for prayers for my stepfather. It was a Sunday morning on which I had received a call from my sister letting me know that Red (as we affectionately call him) was not doing well and was being taken by ambulance to the nearest city. I asked you to pray, and we prayed for him during the worship service. I later learned that the time at which we prayed was the exact moment that the doctors thought they were losing him -- as his heart rate had escalated, while his blood pressure had dropped, leaving him in a very sick state. While it looked like death was on the horizon, he rallied that day.

When Monday morning arrived, I was tied into a conference call with my entire family and the pastor of my parents’ church. During that call, the pastor prayed a profound prayer, one invoking several of the scriptures that specifically mention healing. He then said, “God, we ask that you do a miraculous thing this day. At the end of this day, we expect for the doctors to come in and say, ‘We’re not sure what happened. We cannot explain it. But this man is fine.’”

At the end of the day on Monday, this prayer was answered. The doctors came in and said, “He is fine.” One moment it seemed as though we were about to lose this beloved member of our family and several moments later, he was fine – more than fine, in fact.

As followers of Jesus, we believe in the power of prayer. We believe that our God is a healing God – that God has the power to touch the sick and make them healthy and whole. Still, not all sickness and disease goes away. Not everyone is healed of their ailments.

While in Missouri last week, I reconnected with some friends from college and high school, in addition to an aunt with whom I have not spoken in a while. Each one of these conversations revealed an utter sense of pain, as my friends and my aunt spoke of a need for healing – a healing that has not yet happened.

Aunt Doris and Uncle Howard live in Gastonia, North Carolina. They are beautiful people with accents to match. They have been married for some 60 years and have enjoyed a wonderful life with their three sons and extended family. Uncle Howard is not doing well, however. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year or so ago and is rapidly deteriorating. He does not always recognize his wife or his sons. He does not want to change his clothes or take a bath. His favorite thing is to sit in front of the television set with his eyes glued to whatever is on the screen. Meanwhile, Aunt Doris does her best to care for this once incredibly competent person. She shared with me on the phone how tired she is. “I’m exhausted,” she said. “Please keep us in your prayers.”

I do not understand Alzheimer’s. In my mind, it is the cruelest infliction anyone can experience. Still, we all know someone whose life or whose family is affected by this horrible disease. In fact, a recent Newsweek article states how there are more than 5 million people living in this country today who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the number could skyrocket to 15 million by 2050.

Why is there not a cure for Alzheimer’s? Where are you, Jesus, when we need to experience your healing instead of watching our family members befriending anyone at the grocery store while failing to remember the names of their spouse, children and grandchildren?

Last Sunday night, I had dinner with my friends, Scott and Mandy, in Kansas City. Mandy’s best friend is going through a living hell right now. Two years ago, her now eight-year-old son was hit in the head with a football. The injury to his eye soon revealed a greater sickness within his small head. A tumor was growing behind his eye – a fast growing, cancerous tumor.

The family has been all over the country in the last two years, visiting the best doctors in the nation. The tumor has responded to medicine at times, shrinking to the point where they believe that it might be gone - only to reappear a couple months later. Ben’s eye has been removed, and the tumor now grows out of the empty socket.

Ben’s mother questions where God is in times like this. In these final days, she is angry with God, asking why she has to say goodbye to a son who is only eight. If we hear of so many stories of healing in the Bible, then why has Jesus not touched Ben’s body, allowing him to do the things eight-year-olds do like playing ball and running through the sprinkler and picking on their little sisters instead of lying in a bed, no longer wanting to eat or drink?

Our Bible is filled with accounts of how God is a healer. In fact, if you look up the word “healed” in a Bible concordance, you’ll find that it appears over seventy times in the Old and New Testaments.

The litany of proclamation that we read earlier today mentions God’s faithfulness time and again. God heals the Israelites who keep the commandments of the Lord. The Psalmist worships the Lord who forgives our iniquity and heals our diseases. Jeremiah speaks of a Balm in Gilead that heals the sick soul. Jesus is constantly going out and healing people in the gospel accounts – blind men, bleeding women, lame people and mute individuals. He even raises his friend, Lazarus, from the grave after he has been dead for four days. We know that Jesus is the master healer, but where is Jesus when we or our family members are suffering? Why do we have so many accounts of Jesus healing people while our loved ones suffer, some die much too soon?

When I mentioned to a friend yesterday what I was preaching on, he said “Please shoot me if I ever get Alzheimer’s.” We cannot stand the thought of causing so much affliction and pain on our family members. We do not like to watch people suffer. Being around people who are ill, old, dying or disabled sometimes makes us uncomfortable. When we see the suffering of another person we realize two things: 1) we have bodies that do not last forever – bodies with the capacity to become sick and deteriorate and 2) we cannot always make the suffering go away. Watching others grow old reminds us that from dust we all came and from dust we all shall return – that the only certainty in this life is that we will all one day die.

Our Gospel lesson tells of a man who has been blind since birth. As was the customary Jewish belief at this time, the disciples conclude that the man is blind because of the sins of his parents – because of something his parents did that they should not have done. Jesus’ response, however, is to tell the disciples that the man is not blind because of sin. In fact, sin has nothing to do with morals but instead everything to do with how one will respond to Jesus – to the revelation of God. And then we get a verse that is troubling – a sentence that makes me ask the question, “Why does the Bible have to include that?” Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

What exactly does this verse mean? Did God cause this man to be blind in order to prove something? Why would a man have to endure the inability to see for years in order that God’s glory might be revealed? How exactly does God work when it comes to healing?

If we continue to read this passage, we see how this miracle creates quite a stir in his community. No one can understand how this man who was blind from birth now has the power to see. The man tells the Pharisees over and over that it was Jesus who healed his eyes but no one will believe him. The Pharisees even drive the man out of the temple. And then Jesus says, “’I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’” Fred Craddock explains, “We learn that the blind see and the seeing are blind – no small matter both for life and theology.”

The blind see and the seeing are blind. Those who have enabled their lives to be touched by God are allowed to see – to experience the light that shines in the darkness with the darkness never overcoming it. While those who believe that they can see – those who have concluded that they can manage life on their own, without Jesus, are blind.

How easy it is to be a seeing person! It is so much easier to see than it is to be blind.

While I have never had to use crutches or a cast before, I know that in most cases, these tools are used to heal something that is broken in our bodies. Most people who use crutches and casts will have their bodies fully restored. The broken bone in the arm will come together again. The ankle that was sprained will be repaired. Bodies that rely upon crutches or are braced by a cast are in the process of restoration. The tool needed for healing has been found.

Cancer is not as easy to cope with, however. When a person has cancer she or he almost always has to live with some uncertainty regarding whether a full restoration will occur. A life with cancer often comes with someone having to give up a great deal as a cure is sought. Lunch hours are spent at the radiation lab. Breasts are removed. Hair is lost. And yet, the people in my life who have battled cancer are the ones who have taught me what it looks like to be a blind person who now sees – to know that a cure may not be found and that healing may not happen on this earth – but that God is faithful and just. The crutch enables us to rely upon the device of man, while cancer forces us to rely upon one who is greater than ourselves. The crutch allows us to keep our eyes closed to the one light that really matters, while the cancer forces us to know that the only light that can shine into the darkness of death is Christ.

A pastor told me a story this week of a tragedy that occurred in the life of his congregation. One of the teenagers in his congregation was brutally murdered. Pastor Adam was spending time with the parents of the teenager after the funeral was over and the child had been buried when the pastor asked the father how he was enduring the painful loss. The father looked at his pastor and said, “There is only one thing holding me together right now. I keep saying it over and over again.” The pastor looked at his grieving parishioner as the silence filling the room was interrupted by the father speaking familiar words.

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.” The father said these words with tears in his eyes but then the tone of his voice began to change. He discovered strength when he continued to recite the historic creed. “The third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. This is where my strength comes from,” the father explained.

We will not all be healed on this earth. While some of our aches and pains, disappointments and fears will be healed miraculously, others of us will continue to suffer or watch others suffer. But I believe that the words repeated over and over again by this father are true. And I believe that the ultimate healing – the healing that removes the crutches, the casts and the cancer – is coming. It was made possible on the day Jesus rose from the grave, and the healing will be fulfilled on the day he comes again – on the day we find ourselves resurrected and made whole.

Thanks be to God!