These deaths, though remote from Durham, still can be personal to each of us in a variety of ways. We may know someone who has suffered in the same way. We may know someone who is in the same kind of work. Or we may have found ourselves in a similar situation such that "there go I, but by the grace of God." One of my connections on this day was my daughter's birthday; thus, the title represents my struggle with hopes and fears for her life, the lives of my other children, and the lives of so many more who must face dangers and aggressive evil in the world.
As I have done several times recently, I draw on multiple texts from the Revised Common Lectionary to piece together a narrative and argument. I suspect that this time that the centrifugal force of my anger and hurt have led me to be more "all over the place" than I usually let myself be. If at times it seems that I am digging down in my knapsack for everything that makes me mad, grant the patience that it also may be an opportunity to speak to as wide as possible a range of different hurts and fears in the congregation. In retrospect, I have never had so many mothers and women come to offer their thanks and appreciation for a sermon when it ended as this past Sunday. May that be a learning opportunity for me about how I flesh out an argument when I preach.
…that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power.
Another false god of our time is the border wall. Some would claim that America can be saved, and all of us with it, if we could just keep out all the foreign people trying to undermine our prosperity and society. The reasons given are differences of language, differences of culture, differences of religion, and scarcity of the goods that everyone needs. If we can keep out the outsiders, we’ll be saved. The God of Jesus Christ has invited all outsiders to come and be part of God’s peoples—all of us who are Gentiles are welcome. Keeping people out is not God’s way. God is judging the idols of xenophobia (fear of outsiders) and racial and religious hatred, and calling us to justice.