Sunday, March 28, 2010

From Palms to Passion

First, a bit of a rant:

I have recently come across churches which use a "harmonization" of the gospels instead of reading the Passion Gospel from the actual Bible. I find that this attempt to explain away some of the difficult parts of the Bible ... well, kind of useless. The text is offensive, and in some places inaccurate, anti-Semitic, violent, and open to all sorts of erroneous interpretations which have been promulgated through the centuries. Our late-modern attempts to take a bit of this, a bit of that, just to make it more palatable for the current intellectual fad of "progressive Christianity" is, I think, really useless. Useless because it makes preachers lazy: how do we really get our fellow Christians truly to wrestle with the depth of this tragic story if we short-circuit how difficult and counter-cultural it is to understand in our day and age? Useless also because unlike the "progressive Christians" around us, I find that the theology is not the problem with the church: it's the practice, how we live out our lives as Christians in this extraordinarily difficult time and place we find ourselves, namely 21st century America. How do we understand the violence that assaults all kinds of vulnerable people, as the violence perpetrated by the powerful assaulted Jesus? How do we confront the growing disparity between the privileged and the poor, the disparity we see all around us every day, in light of Jesus' obvious solidarity with the last, littlest and least? How do we read words written in a far-away place thousands of years ago, and try to figure out what sense they make to us, here and now, today, if Christians come to church on a Palm Sunday morning, thinking they will hear this central story of the Christian faith, in its strange, peculiar, rough and dated language, and get instead a faddish interpretation tailored to the status quo of an academic intelligentsia?

That being said, what follows is my stab at how to begin this difficult week, attempting to face, rather than dodge, all about this Passion Gospel that makes me feel guilty, uncomfortable, miserable, afraid, worried and angry.

Palm Sunday
March 28, 2010
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Ps. 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 19:28-40 and Passion Gospel

O God, we prayed, help us to go with you in your passion. Help us to contemplate the mighty acts which you go through this week, which give us life.

We need to enter Holy Week and Passiontide as participants, not just as outside observers or curiosity seekers. We are called to participate in Christ's death and rising to life again. We can understand the story of the passion because it draws on experiences from our own lives.

Each of us is in some way one of the disciples who fall asleep even as Jesus has asked us to come pray with him. We can find ourselves in one of the twelve -- Peter, perhaps, full of bravado, or Judas, ready to betray Jesus with the best of intentions. In each of us there are chief priests and elders, righteously upholding certain inflexible standards justifying the status quo, the correct routine. There is Pilate and Barabbas and the women who anointed his body. We can even empathize with the crowd, whose part we played today. We all sang the "glory, laud and honor," and then, before many minutes were through, we shouted, "Crucify him!" and we mocked him by calling him “the Messiah of God, his chosen one.” We walk with Jesus to dark Gethsemane, we betray him, we try him and leave him hanging on the cross. We find the worst of ourselves in the story of the passion.

We can also find ourselves -- the best of ourselves -- in Christ, Christ who walks to the cross just as a human being who has been betrayed or rejected, just as any human being who knows what it is to suffer and face death. The Christ within me is the part of me that knows what it means to give one’s life for something good, and who knows, that sometimes no matter how good we are, there are those who find their power in violence who will strike me down. The Christ within me believes in love nevertheless, despite of it all and because of everything that has happened. The Christ within me wants to live, has the strength to forgive, to trust, to be healed, to create, to risk building community in a world that wants to tear all those good things down.

This is where the stories of our lives meet the story of Jesus, where what is good in us has been redeemed by the events of this week. Let us follow this story this week for what it truly is: the story of our lives, the story of the redemption of the world, the story of the good news that all the bad things we do, all the people we betray and the deaths we die are ultimately put into place by the triumph of good over evil, of love over betrayal, of community over loneliness, of life over death.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Extravagant, overflowing, abundant love for the poor

Lent 5-C 3/21/2010
Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 125
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

A lot of things in the Bible don’t make sense to our ears today. Let’s face it: these stories are at least 2000 years old, and written in a different language in a different part of the world. Of course there are things mentioned in these stories that we won’t understand.

For example, last week’s story “the man with two sons” mentioned the slaves that worked for this man, otherwise described as a model of goodness. George, one of our children, took issue with even with the mention of slavery: that’s wrong, he said. Abraham Lincoln outlawed it! The mention of slavery got in the way of his paying attention to the point of the story, which was the abundance and generosity of God. It was hard to explain to him that something as bad as slavery wasn’t really what they meant to say. This institution from 2000 years ago didn’t make sense, and trying to figure out why it was mentioned prevented him from hearing the rest of the story.

Let’s look at today’s Gospel. Who knows what “nard” is? When I come across words like that that I don’t know, I start wondering what they mean, trying to figure out what difference “nard” makes, and I stop listening to the rest of the story. So it’s important to ask, “What does this word mean? Why is it here in the Bible?” It might mean nothing to the point of the story, but it might take us deeper into the heart of God.

So, what is “nard?” I looked it up, and learned that

Nard is a shortened word coming from spikenard. Some versions actually say spikenard. In Song of Solomon, 1:12, the bride says, ‘while the king sits at his table my spikenard sends forth its fragrance.” It was prepared by steaming the roots of a plant, some sources say a valerian plant from India, others make no mention of which plant. It was probably mixed with olive oil. [Ancient Greek physicians] prescribed it as a sedative and said it was good to help with sleep. Spikenard was prized by Egyptians and imported to the holy land, usually in alabaster jars and was indeed very expensive. The folklore around it was that nard was useful to quell fear and anxiety, improve meditation, and induce restful sleep and pleasant dreams. Jesus could have benefited from all these properties especially at this dinner on this evening.[i]

So when Mary rubs Jesus’ feet with perfume, it’s not just an ordinary act of comfort. It is loaded with symbolism: the extravagant cost of the ointment, its association with healing and rest and meditation, and even, as Jesus mentions, its use in preparing a body for burial.

On top of this, this story happens right after Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. This is, as you can imagine, extraordinarily controversial. It is big news, bigger than anything else Jesus has done – bigger than the feeding of thousands with a little bread, bigger than healing the demon-possessed or restoring sight to the blind. It is so big, if we read the next few verses after the end of today’s gospel, that this is it. This is the trigger, the flash point, that turns the anger and resentment of the religious authorities against Jesus from mere grumbling to action. Right before what we read today, in chapter 11, verse 49, John quotes the high priest, Caiaphas, yelling at the rest of the religious council, “You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” This is it, they are saying. No more. This is too dangerous, the Romans will crush us all if this
gets out of hand. Kill Jesus. Kill Lazarus. Get rid of them all.

The focus here is on Jesus and his friends. Mary, a disciple whom Jesus loved and taught, sister of Lazarus, spends a nearly unimaginable amount of money to anoint his feet with perfume. She does this out of love and devotion and gratitude, and she recognizes him as the messiah, and Jesus understands this. He also sees more in her act. Jesus, in the Gospel of John, understands that this growing confrontation with authorities will take him to his death, and in that death, God’s glory will be fully revealed. Jesus understands this, and so sees Mary’s loving devotion as a foreshadowing of his burial. Indeed, he will copy Mary’s act in a few days, when he himself washes the feet of his disciples. There, too, they protest. They don’t understand what he is doing, or saying, about the revealing of the glory of God.

The Gospel of John is all about who gets it and who doesn’t, about who sees the light and who continues to dwell in darkness. Mary gets it. Judas doesn’t. Judas here is portrayed as greedy, as a thief, as someone who hides behind a concern for the poor – something which Jesus then exposes as a false concern. Jesus defends Mary’s actions. “The poor you will always have with you,” he says.

Jesus in his very person identifies with the poor, is among the poor, is one of the poor. We have been reading all these stories this Lent of Jesus turning everything upside down, of the poor exalted and the rich cast down, of welcome without limits and love without exceptions. Many people, including the poor, including Judas, think that what Jesus has been doing is merely righting wrongs, being fair, setting the record straight. They want Jesus to win! But this is more than just feeding bread to the hungry, as important as that is. This is about the reversal of a whole world caught in the thrall of greed and death, caught in cost-accounting and tallying up, caught in fear of power and power over the fearful. Mary, who has been watching carefully and listening intently and who has been stunned to see her brother rise from his tomb and walk, gets it, and that is what the anointing is about: overflowing, extravagant, abundant, profligate, fragrant gratitude and love and devotion. This is not about trading all that money for food for the poor. This is about giving all that extravagant, overflowing, abundant love to the poor, about hope for a world in which the feet of the poor are anointed, just as Jesus will soon wash the feet of his disciples, every one of them as poor as he.

After this story in today’s Gospel, Jesus begins to walk the way of the cross. The events leading up to Palm Sunday, to the Last Supper, to Jesus’ betrayal and death are set in motion. The holy drama begins.

[i] Camille Hegg, in

Monday, March 15, 2010

Radical Welcome and Embrace: the story of a man with two sons

Lent 4-C March 14, 2010
St. Paul's Church Annual Meeting

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

A parishioner came into the office the other day to rant. That in itself is not such an unusual thing around here, and I have to say the subject of his rant was not all that unusual, either. It was health care, specifically the limitations of MassHealth. The parishioner’s brother had lost his job, and so lost his health insurance. He has a medical condition that needs treatment, and no, he does not want to run up a large emergency room bill that he cannot pay, especially when this condition can be treated more effectively by a doctor, in office visits. The brother makes too much money now, in the lower-wage job he found after he was laid off, to qualify for MassHealth, and before he could find any insurance he could afford, the state fined him for not having health insurance. “Here’s somebody trying to do everything right,” the parishioner ranted, “and still he gets screwed.”

Sound familiar?

If you live in a world where rules make sense, indeed, where the rules are based on what works for you, then, hey. Those are the rules. You don’t have health insurance? You have to pay a fine. You make too much money to qualify for government-funded health care? Then you have to pay for health insurance on your own. You can’t find anything you can afford? Well, then you have to pay a fine. Those are the rules. We are trying to make health care available to everyone but we’re just not there yet. You are one of those unfortunate few who fall through the cracks. Tough, yes, but those are the rules.

This is the world of the older brother in today’s gospel story. The rules are fair. I play by the rules, you play by the rules. If you screw up, wander off to play with prostitutes and end up feeding pigs, well, that’s regrettable, yes. On this farm, we work hard. We follow the rules. You can get back in, be treated well and housed and fed, but you have to play by the rules. Take a number, sit in that chair, fill out this form, provide documentation and your social security number, and wait.

We live in a world run by the older brother. And if that world makes sense to us, we will always be confused by God. Of all the people I have encountered in thirty years of ministry, more of them come to me complaining about this story than about any other of Jesus’ parables. God is just wrong here, they say. The elder brother is right.

This is not the story of the Prodigal Son, the name usually given to it. This is not the story of the older brother. This is the story of a man with two sons, two sons he loves equally and profligately, two sons with whom he shares everything. One son stays at home, works hard, lives well. The other son wanders off, does bad things, feels bad, needs help. He comes crawling home, afraid that he will be punished for breaking the rules he knew all too well, hoping that his father will forgive him enough to let him live at least the minimally secure life of one of his laborers. And what does the father do? This is the story of a man with two sons, two sons he loves equally and profligately, two sons with whom he shares everything. Everything. The return of this lost son is a cause for rejoicing. Throw a party! There is more than enough to go around.

If we act like the older brother, we will never understand this story. We will always be confused by God. We will always resent that bum who got away with it. And we will never understand what it means when that offer of abundance comes our way. The day will come when on some level we have screwed up, made a mistake, or tried to do everything right and still failed, and then someone, standing in for God as that benevolent father did in the story, will say to us, come on in! Great to see you! Now that you’re here, we can have a party! We won’t know what to do when we’re offered something we don’t deserve, and we will never think we are worthy of a life of abundance and security and comfort.

It’s not that rules are wrong, or that the life the older brother lived was ungodly. Perhaps now, the younger brother will realize that squandering his life and living among pigs is not such a good thing to do, either, and that life on the farm has its benefits. The problem is that for both of them – and this is so true for all of us – the rules were the goal, and life was a zero sum game.

God holds out a different vision, a different hope for the lives of the people he created and loves. There is enough to go around. You can have a home. You can come in out of the rain.

Today is the Annual Meeting of this church. We will discuss some serious and important things, and I hope all of you will stay and participate in the discussion. Taking part in the leadership of even this small a congregation is something everyone can do, and each person’s thoughts and contributions are needed. There is a lot to do, and you – each of you – can help.

However, if you cannot stay, or you don’t want to stay, or all you can muster in the way of participation in the life of this congregation is to come to church, that is ok. If you are headed down to lunch after this, fine. If you have to get home and take care of your family, or go to work, fine. This is your church home, and you are welcome to receive all that is offered at God’s table. We’ll see you on Wednesday, we’ll see you next week. Be well.

You may not want to hear all the details and reports and discussions that will follow this service, but at least I want you to know a few things.

This is an Episcopal church. That means we are headed by a bishop, and our bishop’s office is in Boston. This is a mission parish, and that means the bishop takes direct responsibility for us, and especially for where we are headed. I am here on behalf of the bishop, and this is what the bishop wants us to do in the coming year, dividing our time and our goals into three areas.

  • First, this tiny worshiping congregation. We will continue our Sunday and Wednesday services, reaching out to neighbors and friends. We will provide pastoral care and comfort to all who come through our doors. The bishop wants us to work with other local Christian groups to offer new worship services at different times, with different kinds of music or styles of gathering.

  • Second, the PleasantGreen Project. This is our vision for neighborhood improvement and community revitalization, including better and more affordable places to live. We want to improve this area where we live and work and worship, to make it safer and more attractive, and to bring the arts, and maybe some job training and opportunities for personal enrichment to people who live in our neighborhood.
  • Third, the bishop wants us to deepen and expand our outreach to people in need: to the homeless, the underemployed, the people who come to eat lunch and to volunteer at the Table – in short, to be the church IN this place and OF this neighborhood, a place where all of us, the halt, the lame, and the blind, the lost, the last, the littlest and the least, can find a home. We frequently pray, “What is God calling us to do and to be in this place?” What our bishop, as our spiritual leader and guide, has discerned for us is that this deep and open welcome to all who walk by is our calling. This is what it means to be St. Paul’s Church in Brockton, Massachusetts, in this second decade of the 21st century.
This is not the church for everybody – obviously!! If it were, our pews would be filled!! This is not a church that can offer Sunday school for all grade levels, or a youth group, or a choir, in the ways that typical, suburban churches do, but it is a church that offers all of us, children and adults, the opportunity to experience that same kind of radical welcome and embrace that the father in today’s gospel story offered to his two sons. This is the place to celebrate and rejoice, for the dead come to life, and the lost are found.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bearing fruit, pruning and digging

Lent 3-C March 7, 2010
Exodus 3:1-15

Ps. 63:1-8 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Weren’t we lured outside yesterday by the sunny skies and warm temperatures? I don’t know about you, but growing up in the north here, I feel that experiencing such nice weather so early in the spring – or late in the winter – seems like a trick, a tease. Was this fear, that such a spring might be too good to be true, in the mind of the poet T.S. Eliot[i] when he wrote:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Aren’t we northerners to a certain extent much more comfortable when we can hunker down in our winter woolies? Like Eliot wrote:

Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Come on, now: doesn’t a part of us feel that all the little life we will ever get consists of those dried tubers?

Some of you, thankfully, grew up in more southern climes, closer to the parts of the globe where the sun shines more reliably than it does around here, where the temperatures are warmer, and you don’t have to wear winter woolies. Perhaps that gives you more of a sense of optimism during this season of Lent – the word “Lent” after all comes from the English word “to lengthen.” This is the season when the days lengthen. The earth DOES turn. The summer WILL come, even if we, steeped in fear and disappointment, regard such days as yesterday’s mid-March sunshine as a cruel interlude between blizzards.

So what did you think of yesterday’s sunshine?

And what do you think of today’s gospel? Is Jesus saying we deserve to perish, like that fig tree that bears no fruit? Should we be cut down, lest we waste the soil in which we are planted? Or is Jesus the wise gardener, prudently pruning and digging, so we, the potentially fruit-full fig tree can flourish?

However you read it, these words of Jesus are a challenge. Think of what that might mean in your own life: where in your own life are you not bearing fruit? Where are the twigs that need to be trimmed, the dead branches that need to be lopped off? Perhaps the discipline of the Twelve Steps would be good for all of us as we think about what Jesus says, like that 4th step of “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” A scary prospect if we really took it seriously. What parts of your life are not bearing fruit? Do you need to dig around your roots a little bit, to see if things will come up better next year?

St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, usually a source of beautiful spiritual guidance, is a little tough to read this morning, too. He writes of a bunch of people perishing because they aren’t good enough – yikes! – and then listen again to these words of comfort:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.

My experience has been that when I am in the middle of such a period of testing, I do not quite know if that is true. It seems at those moments that God is giving me far more than I can handle, and that even if I have the strength to endure, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it very well at all.

Since Jesus has brought up the image of the fig tree, let’s think a little bit more about gardening. At this time of the year, straightening out a garden does seem like one of those tests that God has given me that are too much to handle. The amount of work to clean up the detritus of winter seems endless, the soil is muddy, and ravages of ice and snow and salt have taken their toll. But, like yesterday’s sunny day, isn’t there always hope in a garden?

I was reminded yesterday[ii] of an old novel, The Secret Garden. In this story,

… two sickly and spoiled children, Mary and Colin … find a hidden garden neglected and overgrown. The garden is discovered in the Lenten springtime:

When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead … Then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing. One day things weren't there and another they were.

The work of pruning and digging lead Mary and Colin out of their sickly loneliness into health, and the miracle of life springing out of the chaos and mud of the hidden garden leads them to feelings they never had before. In the novel, a friend starts to sing:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Colin, the little boy in the book, has never been to church, has never heard those words.

It is a very nice song, [he says.] I like it. Perhaps it means just what I mean when I want to shout out that I am thankful to the Magic.

Last week I said, “Let go and let God.” That’s one of those things that’s as hard to hear as “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and still I find none. Cut it down!”

At times like that, perhaps the most we can do is to be thankful to the Magic, as we dig around the roots of our lives, in hope that with that care and attention we will, someday, bear the fruit God wants us to bear. At times like that, perhaps all we can do is sing.

[i] The Wasteland

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What is God calling the Episcopal Church to be and to do in this place?

The lessons we read in church return every three years. This sermon from 2007 shows where we were as a congregation then, engaged in learning about our mission field, the people whom God has given us to serve.

Note that things have changed since then. We still hope for a revitalized St. Paul's Church, but the challenges we face are steep: turning this neighborhood into a safe, beautiful place meets resistance from the civic leaders we hoped would help us. Working these deals to completion takes time, Building a sustainable congregation of people with enough money to pay our bills requires the steady support of the diocese and neighboring congregations, yet the demands on those dollars are many, and as compelling as ours, and these sources will just not be able to provide us with the funds we need.

It's time to ask again: What is God calling the Episcopal Church to be and to do in this place?

Surely to offer comfort, hospitality and food to the people who walk through our doors.

But how can we afford to keep those doors open?

Lent 3-C March 11, 2007

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

You have to admit that the people of Israel had a hard time there in Egypt: enslaved, oppressed, starved, beaten, worked to death, building those massive pyramids, those monuments to the greatness of the ancient world’s superpower, the Pharaohs.

Now, remember how those people of Israel got to Egypt. They were migrant workers, aliens, immigrants. They had fled the famine in their own land, some generations before. Remember Joseph and the coat of many colors? Joseph, son of Jacob, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers? Joseph who became a high-powered and successful official in the Pharaoh’s court? Who became so successful that when his family crawled into Egypt, begging for food, for work, for shelter, he was able to welcome them and provide for them from the store of his adopted nation’s bounty? That’s how the poor people of Israel got to Egypt originally, as immigrants, migrant workers, welcomed by the generosity of the Nile, just wanting to be there, in Egypt, where they could make a living and feed their families.

I mentioned last week that the Bible verse that defines who the people of Israel are – the way they describe themselves when they go back to their ancient roots – has to do with this experience of being aliens, strangers, sojourners in someone else’s land – nomadic, desert people being welcomed in a place of bounty and abundance. Generations later, this is what the people of Israel remember about their experience in Egypt:

‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.” (Deuteronomy 26:5)

And later:

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

By the time we get to Moses, in the book of Exodus, things are very bad for the people of Israel. You remember this story: little baby Moses, hidden by his mother and sister along the edge of the Nile – the vulnerable infant of the by-now the enslaved Israelites – the baby given up by a mother desperate to save her beloved child – Moses adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in Pharaoh’s household to be one of Pharaoh’s elite – Moses who began to remember his roots and his people, who found himself fighting back when one of the Hebrew people was beaten by an Egyptian – Moses who murdered an Egyptian, who ran away in fear and hid in the desert, wanting nothing to do any more with troubled people: Moses the abandoned, Moses the privileged, Moses the runaway, an alien once again, Moses alone in the desert when the bush before him bursts into flame.

Moses is famous for being a reluctant spokesman for God. Moses does not want to go back to Egypt, even though he knows his own people are oppressed and enslaved. Moses has a speech impediment, Moses is reluctant, Moses is afraid. Nevertheless, God speaks to Moses. Moses is the one to go back to confront the powers and principalities of the most powerful nation on the earth. Moses is the one to speak for God on behalf of those people crying out to God for safety, salvation and justice. “Who am I,” Moses says, “to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Who indeed?

Some remarkable things have been happening in this church this week. As part of our “Mission Strategy Brockton,” teams of people have been going out into the community to ask people: What are your hopes and dreams? What does this church mean to you? What MORE might it mean to you? Who are you, and what is going on in your life? These teams went to community centers, north and south; they went downstairs, here, to talk to the guests at St. Paul’s Table. I don’t know what was said; I don’t know what they learned – we’ll have to ask them – but I do know this: They are hearing the cries of the people – hearing what it is to come to Brockton from some place very far away and try to start a life here, to work and support a family – hearing what it is to have lived in Brockton for generations, and still not be able to put food on the table and to teeter precariously from paycheck to paycheck. You who went out there into the community this week – you are God’s ears.

But you are putting us in a very difficult situation. For now that we are beginning to listen to the cries of the people, now that we are beginning to ask them about their hopes and dreams, and about what this place might be in their lives – well, now, we’re like Moses. Those conversations are our burning bush, staring us in the face, scaring the bejesus out of us, because now, we are going to go have to confront Pharaoh. We’re going to have to speak for God, on behalf of those people. Like Moses realizing who his people were, those stories are now our stories. Like Moses, we’re going to have to take on some powerful institutions – to hold them accountable for these people, who are now us. There are a lot of Pharaohs in this complicated world, and we’re going to have to meet them head on: there’s the Diocese, of course, who needs to come through on their promises to work with us to make this church thrive, to make it a place of sanctuary, of hospitality, of prayer and hope in a broken world. A place that welcomes aliens, because we remember when we were aliens, strangers, desperate, lonely and alone – because we remember when we had hopes and dreams for a better life. There’s the city of Brockton, to work with them to clean up this corner. There are other congregations and groups, to get them to come in here and serve meals so there is no day of the week that any person in Brockton will go hungry. There are the landlords who lease substandard apartments at extraordinary rates. Once we begin to hear these stories, there is no end to the Pharaohs we’ll have to meet.

How will we ever do it?

The same way Moses did it. Stuttering, perhaps. A little hesitant. With friends at our side, who can take up the cause when we falter. But most importantly with the same promise Moses heard out of the burning bush: “I will be with you,” God said.

We know God was with Moses. The Bible is full of stories of how God fulfilled that promise. And there is no reason on God’s green earth to have any doubt – any doubt -- that God is with us today.