Give Peace a Chance

People at prayer in Kyiv, Ukraine.

February 24 marked the beginning of another grim chapter in human history where the forces of empire, power, greed and evil struck. Despite the propaganda coming from the Kremlin, that sounds eerily reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s justifications for invading Poland in 1939, this is nothing more than a brutal grab for power and territory. The brutality is not only part of this invasion but is shown by the way thousands of peaceful protesters within Russia were rounded up by militarized police.  

From this place in the midst of the crisis it is hard to see God’s hand at work. I think of the disciples who saw Jesus murdered by crucifixion and feeling certain that all was lost. Yet, it was not the cross or the brutal empire that had the last say. It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we see God in action on behalf of the Holy Son and us.

We must be patient and trust in the love of God. We must join with those who work for peace no matter who they are. This is not about taking sides in a battle that one might triumph over the other. This is about siding with peace. For it is in only in peace that we all triumph. It is in peace that God’s love triumphs. It is only through peace that the Kingdom of God will be manifest in the world.

Of course, peace is more than the absence of war and conflict. The peace of God is about justice for every single person on the planet. Justice is more than what happens in the courtroom. It is about safety, food, health, freedom of thought, freedom from fear, freedom of faith, care for the natural world, and so much more. That is the Peace of God that passes all understanding.

While Ukraine is top of our minds we should ont forget other areas around the globe where people suffer from armed conflicts including Congo, Ethiopia, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen to name a few. There are also areas where tensions remain high such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, the Korean Peninsula, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Therefore, I ask you to join with me in praying “A Prayer for Peace” from the Book of Common Prayer page 815.

“Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”

I also offer the prayer from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, respectively.

“God of Peace and Justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your spirit of comfort should draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion
to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all of your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Can it Long Endure?

Thanksgiving as an American celebration goes back to colonial days, but it was not always about overeating and watching television. Virginians claim that the first thanksgiving was a worship service held in 1619 at what became Berkeley Plantation. Residents of Massachusetts claim that the harvest feast held in 1621 was the first. I expect that other European explorers held services of prayer and thanksgiving even before these two events.

In 1789 George Washington at behest of Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, calling on the American people to also, “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation…”[1] It was not until 1942 that by an act of Congress the last Thursday in November became the permanent day of the celebration nationwide.

In the 1950s this national celebration took on a decidedly patriotic character. Stories about the Thanksgiving Day service at my previous parish include singing national songs while kneeling and the waving of an American flag in front of the altar. What was initially a time of prayer that focused on giving thanks to God for safe passage to the New World or feasting after a bountiful harvest became a celebration of American Exceptionalism.

While the aspect of family gathering has come to the fore in recent years, God seems to have gotten lost in translation. Exhibit one would be that few churches mark this day with a worship service, and those that do are not full.

As we look at the current state of the nation it seems to me we should focus on what Mr. Lincoln wrote. Like people of his day we need to pray “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation…”

Compared to any time in our history other the Civil War, America is sharply divided. We as a nation need to get down on our knees and ask forgiveness from Almighty God for our abuse of one another. We need to repent for not treating our neighbors as ourselves. We need to meditate not on the whether we get another helping of turkey, but whether we as a people deserve our abundance given our “perverseness and disobedience.” We need to beg God to interpose “the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”

If we do not, then we may have the sad answer to a question Lincoln asked on the battlefield at Gettysburg. At that time he said we were in a mighty struggle to determine, “whether [this] nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Let us give thanks that we have endured for 158 years since he spoke those words. Let us ask God for forbearance, mercy, and direction that the American Experiment will continue to endure. Despite our many flaws, may this country continue to be the shining city on a hill that has inspired so many people to work for equality, justice and freedom all across this globe.

[1] accessed November 24, 2021

The Wonder Years

“The Wonder Years” was and is a television show focused on the coming of age of its teen characters. The title is quite evocative, but sadly I think it implies that there are certain years full of wonder and then we go on to something else. I wonder if wonder is confined to a particular time in our lives or can it be pervasive?

Some years ago I was trained as a catechist or guide in the children’s formation curriculum of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This program takes the Montessori method of teaching and applies it to Christian formation of children ages 3-12. One of the primary principles in Catechesis is wonder. When we share a story from the Bible with the children we do not end the story by telling them what it means. Instead, we wonder together about aspects of the story. The children might wonder aloud or in their hearts. It does not matter.

What matters is that the children and the catechist are allowed to wonder. They are allowed to let the story resonate inside. This allows the various aspects of the story—characters, words, setting, actions—to bounce around inside without having to come up with a meaning or, worse, be told a meaning. When we force a meaning onto a story we close it off. The myriad possibilities are no longer allowed to resound within the soul. When a definitive meaning is offered creativity, something children are very good at, is shut down. It also tells the child that creativity is bad and whatever we might have been feeling about the story is wrong unless it fits the defined explanation.

Too many of us were taught that wondering is unproductive. Wondering is a waste of time. Rather than wondering we should be thinking and doing. So we lose the capacity to wonder. We lose the natural impetus to simply gaze upon something or someone in awe. We walk through life with burning bushes everywhere and never notice that God is calling out to us. We miss out on so much.

Recognizing this dilemma we face, the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote a prayer that asks God to put wonder, awe, amazement, enrapture, and marvel back into our lives. Thus all years can be wonder years, all days wonderful, and our lives filled with wonder.

“Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder.
Surprise me, amaze me,
awe me in every crevice of your universe.
Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number.
…I do not ask to see the reason for it all:
I ask only to share the wonder of it all.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel

Stop it!

Over the past few years I have wavered between being a news junkie and abstaining from the news almost entirely. These years have been so eventful, literally filled with momentous events that are changing the world and changing the way we live. I want to keep up and not bury my head in the sand, but I do not want to be so wrapped up in it that I lose perspective or become despondent.

It really is quite possible to become so overwhelmed by the weight of the events of the world that we lose hope. Take our current situation where the top of the news revolves between the rise in pandemic infections overall and especially among children and those who have refused to be vaccinated, the end of the twenty year war in Afghanistan and the airlift of refugees, Hurricane Ida and the destruction it wrought in Louisiana and in the mid-Atlantic states and New England, the huge and uncontrolled fires in the west and northwest destroying forests and homes, and Haiti suffering in the aftermath of hurricans, earthquakes and a coup d’etat. If we get into the details of these stories or the less spectacular issues we could spend all day on the news. Sadly, the cable news channels in particular would like you to do that. So in addition to the hard news they add in talking heads, pundits and commentators whose job it is to make you feel even worse and more afraid about the state of the world. If we get sucked down that hole we are no longer news junkies we have become addicted not to the news but to fear. That addiction bolsters their ratings and gets them more advertisers.

What are we to do if we get caught up in this frenzy of fear mongering on which cable news lives and breathes? The first thing that came to my mind is a Bob Newhart skit from some years ago. It is perhaps the funniest six minutes of television I have ever seen. I commend it to you not as the answer to this addiction, but as a way of defusing it (Newhart skit).

Certainly stopping the activity is easier said than done. I know many people who first thing in the morning turn on the radio to the news channel, NPR, or one of the cable news stations. That device stays on all day filling their lives with the latest headlines, traffic reports (even though they are not on the roads), news of disasters far and wide, sports (even though they do not follow sports), and celebrity scandals. While they may not being pay full attention to it their ears and minds are being filled with things that make them anxious, disgusted, worried, and fearful. Think if instead the radio or TV were tuned in to Mozart, some pleasant music, or someone reading poems, or telling heartwarming stories, or simply nature sounds. Or perhaps even better, they were not turned on at all so that the sounds of nature or blessed silence were the only sounds they heard.

We have choices. For years I have kept my iPhone next to my bed at night. Initially it was so I would not miss an emergency call. In all that time I have received one call in the middle of the night that was a real emergency. But the problem is that the first thing in the morning I pick up the phone and check it. I have barely wiped the sleep from my eyes and I am seeing spam, sales pitches, news headlines, and many other things that could wait for me to at least gain full consciousness. Recently, I have been leaving the phone somewhere else. As I fully awaken, I say a prayer from Forward Movement called “For Today.”(morning prayers) I used to do this before I got an iPhone. It seems like a good habit to return to. For you there may be another answer to the news addiction. It may be looking out a window, hugging your beloved, walking the dog, looking at a painting, reading a poem, and any of a myriad of other possibilities. The news will wait. When you allow it to wait you may find that your fear and worries start to abate. The old saying is “we are what we eat.” That is true not only of food but of the other things we consume through our eyes, ears and other senses.

In the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (6:37 NRSV) Worry and fear add nothing to our life, they only subtract. They preoccupy us with things that we have no control over. If we could control them we would do something more than worry. Instead of feeding our worries, let us strive for peace in ourselves and peace for others. As Jesus said later in Matthew “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (6:33 KJV) Do not seek out trouble and worry there is enough of that to go around without looking for it. Instead seek the Kingdom of God. In doing so we add to our lives the joy and goodness that only God offers.


On my last visit to the monastery of The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge Massachusetts I was talking with Brother Curtis Almquist about my prayer life. He told me that nearly every priest he speaks with is concerned that their prayer life is inadequate. Likewise many people I speak with are concerned that their prayer life is lacking. It seems with a few notable exceptions, mostly saints; we judge our personal prayer life as wanting. I suspect that is because we have a clichéd way of thinking about what is proper prayer. It involves getting on our knees with hands together and pointed toward heaven. Our head is bowed our eyes are closed and all is silent, and all around us is still. Then we repeat a memorized prayer or, if we are particularly godly, we make up, on the spot, a prayer that is both eloquent and terribly pious. We believe this type of prayer, and this type only, is what will please God, and earn us stars in our heavenly crown. However, I think we can be fairly certain that this is not the case.

Indeed, prayer is not about earning anything or doing your duty or being pious. Rather prayer is about communing with the heart of God. There are so many ways to do this. One that I was reminded of this week is beholding. What reminded me is this quotation from American poet Diane Ackerman, “There is a way of beholding which is a form of prayer.” The Oxford Dictionary defines “behold” as a verb “to see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one).” It also categorizes this word as archaic-literary. That is that no one beholds something except in a poem or novel. However, in ancient times it would seem that to behold was fairly common. According to one source the word behold shows up 1,298 in the Bible. That is quite a lot of beholding! Jokes and dictionaries aside, a return to beholding may be an answer to our prayer of how to pray.

Sitting in a garden and simply looking at a flower. Going to a museum and gazing on a painting without counting the minutes. Watching a child sleep. Regarding your beloved as she or he performs an ordinary task. Peering up at the sky at night as the stars twinkle or the clouds in daytime. A prayer tradition in the Orthodox Church is looking upon icons. Those outside this tradition think that the devout are praying to the icon. Actually, they are praying through the icon, by using the eyes of the image to see into heaven.

In recent weeks I have been looking at the Little-Joe-Pye-Weed in my garden as the bees and butterflies swarm over it for nectar. I have never seen bees so frantically searching a flower. It is fascinating. I behold the flower and the bees in silence. I do not think scientific thoughts or even religious ones. I simply gaze in wonder.  As an afterthought is how the parts of God’s creation work together for the benefit of all.

Behold the world around you. Behold those you love. Behold God in all of God’s various manifestations. As the angel said, “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” Behold the wonder, glory, and love of God. To behold brings us unwittingly into the very heartbeat of God. There we can feel the pulse of our souls joining up with the center of all things, the ground of all things, the very essence of all that is and ever shall be. Amen.


Many people struggle with issues of self-worth. The reasons are varied, but it often seems to derive from a childhood experience of being ridiculed or disparaged by a parent or other adult in authority. It can also come from experiences in adulthood once again from being denigrated by an authority figure, or through a devastating personal failure that leads to shame or hypercritical self-judgment. Regardless of the source of our feelings of lack of self-worth, it is our response that can be most telling.

A few have the kind of disposition which allows critique to roll off them like water off of a duck. I heard the story of a child who had, in typical child fashion, spread toys all over a room. A passing adult said, “You are a mess.” The self-possessed child responded, “I have made a mess but I am not a mess.” Oh, that we could all be so confident when confronted by criticism.

For some people the response to hurtful criticism is to go through life on tiptoe as if the next step could set off a landmine. Every moment is fraught with the possibility of more criticism, more negative judgment, and more destruction of what little perception of personal value is left. This person might be meek and deferential. This person might also fight back by denigrating others overtly or covertly. This person finds some respite from critique by criticizing others, even if it is under their breath. They think, “Well who do they think they are they can’t even [insert jab here].” Tearing down another helps them to feel like the playing field is a little bit more level.

Another strategy is to fight back aggressively. This person responds to critique by inflating his/her own sense of self. They put on armor to deflect criticism. They are also always ready to shoot back with even more critique than they receive. They are always on combat footing ready to repulse and return fire.

Yet another strategy is the bully. This person does not wait for criticism, but is always criticizing. This one figures that if he/she fires a devastating blow first the other will not be able to criticize. He fires before being fired upon. She doesn’t give the other a chance to criticize by getting in the first blow.

None of these stances really addresses the issue at hand. As Br. David Vryhoff writes, “It is not usually helpful to point out another person’s sins and shortcomings.” It may help us feel better for a moment, but it does not cure our feelings of worthlessness. At the end of the day whether we mumble criticism, take it on the chin, fight back, or make a destructive first strike, we are still left feeling worthless.

What can heal us and others is compassion. It starts with compassion for our wounded selves and continues as compassion for others. The best response is neither offense nor defense. Rather it is the radical acceptance of ourselves as wounded but worthy. That extends to seeing others in the same light. As Br. David wrote, “What people need far more [than criticism] is a loving acceptance and affirmation of their worth, a kindly forbearance towards their weaknesses. This compassionate acceptance we must exercise not only towards others, but also towards ourselves.”

When we can show compassion for our self and for others the healing can begin. Compassion literally means “to suffer with.” When we are compassionate we are able to feel another’s suffering and respond kindly and lovingly to that suffering. A compassionate response is one that seeks to relieve hurt and begin healing. Often the ability to be compassionate comes from having suffered our own hurts. Those wounds remind us of what it feels like to suffer. Our response is to want to relieve the suffering of another.

That is what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is what the Samaritan did that the priest and scribe could not. The Samaritan could feel the suffering of the man beaten and robbed and treat him like he would want to be treated. For the Samaritan nothing mattered once he had compassion for the victim. That is what Jesus calls us to this day and every day.


I have a confession to make. I am a foodie. I am one of those people who lives to eat rather than eats to live. It is difficult for me to look at food as simply fuel for my body. The tastes, the aromas, the colors, the textures, even the sounds of food are wonderful. And this time of year is almost heaven on earth, in the food sense. Everything is fresh. Tomatoes, basil, squash, peppers, zucchini, beans, melons, peaches, herbs of all kinds…. Indeed at this time of year it is easy to be a vegetarian because we are surrounded with so much fresh produce and every bit of it tastes as if it came right out of the Garden of Eden— succulent, luxurious, sensual.

Food this time of year is to be savored not gobbled up on the go. This is food we not only eat but wear on our faces and the fronts of our shirts and blouses, with juices running everywhere. No napkins are necessary, just the back of the hand wiped across the mouth, and a tongue to lick up the sweet nectar that is running down an arm.

I cannot imagine life without this food. The raw delicacies we find at farmers markets and roadside stands are worth every rainy spring day and every hot, humid summer day we endure. This food is overwhelming in its flavors and it captures the essence of the season.

One of my very favorite poems is “Love” (III) by George Herbert (see below) the 17th century English metaphysical poet and Anglican priest. He is part of that group of poets that includes John Donne, Andrew Marvell and Thomas Traherne. I first encountered Herbert’s poetry when singing Ralph Vaughn Williams–Five Mystical Songs, a musical setting of five of Herbert’s poems. The music transported me and led me to search out the poems. I was enthralled by the poetry, the images, and the beauty of the language.

What do summer vegetables have to do with this poem? Eating! Here Love welcomes us to a banquet; the most sacred of banquets—Holy Communion. A small wafer of unleavened bread and a sip of wine may not seem like a banquet, but it is the foreshadowing of the heavenly feast to come. It is a meal that feeds my heart and my spirit. It soothes the parts of me that identify with the poet who feels guilty, dusty, sinful, unkind, ungrateful, and marred. When I eat this simple food it fills me up in ways I cannot completely explain.

A young girl expressed it best. One morning she received the wafer and took it back to her seat. Her father saw her sitting and slowly nibbling little bits off of it. He was appalled. He said, “What are you doing? You are supposed to eat the wafer up there,” pointing to the altar. While still transfixed on that little wafer she calmly responded, “I am eating it slowly because I want to savor the taste of Jesus.”

Communion is always special. It is never routine, it is never just a ritual. It is a meal to be savored—a bit of the holy on my lips, in my mouth, on my tongue, a bit of the holy coursing through my veins.

Love (III) by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.

Who does Jesus hate?

The reasoning goes something like this. I am a Christian. I read the Bible. I go to church. I believe in God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I love Jesus. Therefore, if I am opposed to something God must also be opposed to it. If I believe or have ascertained through my understanding of God that something is “wrong” then God also believes it is wrong. If I hate or fear something, then Jesus does also. The deep flaw in this way of thinking is, simply put, the speaker has made himself or herself into God. Just because I feel a certain way does not mean that God does also, no matter how faithful a believer I am.

This is certainly not new to our time and place. Throughout the two millennia of Christianity different factions within the faith have claimed Jesus for themselves. They have set themselves up as arbiters of the truth, and not just any truth, but God’s truth. They believe that they know the mind of God. They will force others to either accept their version of the “truth” and even kill others for not accepting it. They make themselves God. There is nothing worse that a person of faith can do.

It is accepted that the four canonical Gospels are accounts of the life, teaching, preaching, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus. The Book of Acts and the Epistles are accounts of the early church. It seems to me that the overarching theme within these books and letters is the love of God, God’s desire for a deep relationship with all people, and God’s drawing people to the Divine self. The only people who are put to death in these accounts are the people who espouse these beliefs, that is Jesus and his followers. Neither Jesus nor any of his followers puts to death death anyone. Rather those who do not believe are to be courted and persuaded, if possible, to accept the Good News. Those who persist in their rejection of the Good News of Jesus are to be left alone. Those who desire to come to Jesus are welcomed no matter where they come from, what are their past misdeeds, or their past beliefs. Despite the condemnation of religious authorities, Jesus ate with and consorted with run of the mill sinners as well as notorious sinners. He did not reject them and some he welcomed as his closest companions (e.g. Matthew the tax collector).

Recently we have heard of the desire of some Roman Catholic bishops to deny Holy Communion to particular politicians over one political stance. Sadly, an Episcopal bishop came out in support of the Catholic bishops’ desire to restrict Holy Communion. This bishop stated that it is the prerogative of the Church to limit who can receive the sacrament. This bishop’s reasoning stated that it was the Church’s responsibility to safe guard Communion. He even went on to state that the table belongs to the Church and that even God is a guest at the table. The table initially set by Jesus with his own body and blood no longer belongs to him. The absurdity of this theological claim by a bishop of my church breaks my heart.

For centuries the Church has put borders around something that Jesus invited everyone to partake of. Those borders are there to restrict this holy food to only a select group. These borders are to keep out those we do not believe are deserving of the sacrament. Yet Jesus said time and again that he wanted to draw all people to himself. He never once caveated that by saying all people who believe a certain dogma, vote a certain way, have a certain skin color, speak a certain language, live in a certain neighborhood, or any of the other myriad ways in which we sinful humans try to divide ourselves. Instead of seeing the light of God in each other we attempt, even in the Church, to snuff out that light or see it through a prism that divides the “true” light from that which we do not like.

If our theology is based on the Bible, then we must accept that when God said we are made in the likeness of God that means all of us are. There are no exceptions. When John write that “God is love” then God is love for all: no exceptions. God is love not hate. Jesus hates no one, even those with whom he disagrees. Even at his death he asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him.

As long as we prescribe borders around God and show disdain and hatred toward others we are not of God. We are not following Jesus. Our claim to know the mind of God is the dead giveaway that we know only our own prejudices and seek to validate them by claiming know the mind of God. As long as we do we play into the hands of the evil one. It is the greatest desire of Satan to keep people from the uncompromising love of the one whose name is above all names and whose unconditional love never ends.

Let us not, no matter how righteous we may be or may feel, to fall into that fatal trap. Rather like Jesus on the cross let us open our arms to the entire world. Prohibit no one and welcoming everyone. We have all fallen short of perfection and it is the heavenly food of the Holy Eucharist that can heal and strengthen us to do God’s work in the world. God blesses everyone, let us learn to do the same.

Sibongile means thanks

In 2009 I traveled to South Africa on pilgrimage. While there we visited several of what South Africans call “locations”. Locations are not to be confused with townships. Locations are simply vacant spots on the map where the apartheid government dumped black people to get them out of the way.

We visited one such location called Ezibeleni. We went there to visit a place where children orphaned by AIDS are tutored, learn life skills, and get a snack. It is called a “Safe Park” where kids can be safe for a while, before returning to parentless homes. The afternoon we were in Ezibeleni, the children and the adults that care for them taught us to play the xylophone and drums and to dance.

Among the dances is one that is usually done by girls. It is a sort of face-off between the two dancers who stare into each other’s eyes and hop on one leg while extending the other leg and wagging the lower part below the knee. If you think the description sounds awkward, try doing it. Needless to say, this is something that loose-limbed little girls excel at, but that is hard for adults to manage regardless of gender or athleticism.

Being guests we were each asked to take part in this dance. Fortunately I was not paired up with a little girl. Instead one of the female workers was my adversary/partner. We both did our middle-aged best, and in the midst of the dance someone snapped a photo.

I was not aware of the photo, until one day after we returned to Richmond much to my surprise I saw a huge version hanging in the parish house hallway. The photo captures the joy and abandon I felt in the moment. You see my partner/adversary from behind, but you can tell that she too is smiling and enjoying the absurdity of the moment.

When the missionaries with whom we traveled in South Africa came to visit Richmond one of them, Heidi, beckoned me to look at this photo. She told me that my dance partner had recently died of AIDS. As I looked at the photo I felt a curious mix of sadness and joy. I realized that I could not recall my dancer partner’s name. Heidi told me her first name was Sibongile, which means “thanks” and her last name was Breakfast. Sibongile Breakfast. What a wonderful name.

Since that day I have pondered our slim connection, my joy, and the sense of loss I feel. How is it that I can be so connected to someone whose name I did not know and with whom I interacted for only a minute over twelve years ago?

We meet so many people in our lives. So many of them we hardly recognize as individuals. They are cashiers, waiters, pedestrians, drivers, and shoppers. They are people certainly, but they are more part of the landscape than they are individuals. It feels demanding on my limited emotional resources to have to treat them all as persons just as beloved by God as I am. It feels easier to look through them and not let them all in.

What Sibongile reminds me is that letting people in does not diminish me, it enlarges me. My heart, my ability to love, does not get drained by letting others in, it gets filled. The more people I let in the door of my heart the larger my heart becomes. My heart does not become overcrowded and tight it becomes expansive. It is impossible to have too much love. I think that is what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “my cup runneth over.” More love in, more love going out and my heart remains full.

So even as I mourn Sibongile Breakfast, I also feel joy. I feel joy that she has gone on to larger life in Christ’s love. I feel joy that we had that moment of abandon together. I feel joy that she is in my heart forever.

What a friend we have

One of the many ways that people view Jesus is as friend. We sing hymns such as “What a friend we have in Jesus,” “In the garden,” and “Just a closer walk with Thee” where we express our desire to have an intimate relationship with Jesus. The songs express the yearning for time to walk with Jesus, to talk with Jesus, and to share our thoughts and hopes with Jesus. This desire for a deep personal relationship is essential for many Christians. 

It is also scriptural. For there are a number of times that Jesus expresses that his disciples, and by extension us, are his friends. Just last Sunday we read a passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus says:“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”—John 15:14-15

A dear friend of mine, Br. Curtis Almquist of the Anglican monastic order The society of St. John the Evangelist, recently wrote, “Jesus calls us ‘friend.’ One of the wonderful things about speaking to a trusted friend is the freedom not to be guarded, to let whatever you need to say just tumble off your lips. A trusted friend will understand you; a trusted friend will not necessarily take everything you say literally, but rather, they will take it truly. They know you. We can take Jesus at his word, that he listens to you as a beloved friend. When you pray, don’t worry that you get it right; get it real. Jesus will get it right.”

Like some of you I sometimes worry about getting it right when talking with Jesus. I worry about speaking beautifully with psalm-like metaphors and in Elizabethan English. But as with any good friend Jesus is more interested in hearing from us than in how well we speak. Trying to get it right becomes a barrier to communication. Talk with Jesus like you used to talk with a sibling or friend at night. Remember how you would turn out the lights and then start talking. You could not see each other, but you could hear each other. Somehow the darkness made it safer or easier to talk frankly. Those conversations were always so good. Imagine Jesus in the other bunk and just talk. Allow for silence that you might hear what he has to say to you. His response may not be clear in the moment, but it will be in time.

Jesus calls you friend. Accept the invitation and live into it. We can have no better friend than him.