Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Best We Can Do

James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-41
September 27, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

The letter of James is one of the most practical portions of Scripture. There are several “James” in the New Testament, including, of course, Jesus‘ brother. We have no direct indication of which James is behind the letter, or whether someone is writing under James’ name and in his style of thought! We do know that it is written in beautiful Greek, and that James was felt to be so well known in the Church that he needed no introduction. In this letter, the early Christians are invited to rely on and help each other, with the conviction that prayer will make a difference. Let us listen to his advice and encouragement, in James 5:13-20:

Are any among you suffering? They should pray.
Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up;
and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being like us,
and he prayed fervently that it might not rain,
and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
Then he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
My brothers and sisters,
if anyone among you wanders from the truth
and is brought back by another,
you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering
will save the sinner’s soul from death
and will cover a multitude of sins.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus rebukes the disciples, whose sense of exclusivity has prompted them to try to correct someone who was acting in Jesus’ name. Let’s listen for God’s word to us in Mark 9: 38-41

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us."
But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

There is something about prayer, something that both inspires and intimidates us.

When something terrible happens, the grim diagnosis, the wildfire, the tsunami, whether literal or figurative, we often say, “The best we can do right now is pray.”

When we are faced with a difficult decision, and we don’t have all the facts; when we are in conflict and there seems to be no resolution, someone says, “The best we can do right now is pray.”

Even people who do not profess any faith, people for whom prayer seems difficult, if not silly, will find themselves cornered by life, stymied by a problem, and they, too, will say, “The best we can do right now is pray.”

Listen to this personal story of how prayer came into one man’s life:

I stumbled through my month in treatment much as I had done the first time, just ticking off the days, hoping that something would change in me without me having to do much about it. Then one day, as my visit was drawing to an end, a panic hit me, and I realized that in fact nothing had changed in me, and that I was going back out into the world again completely unprotected.

The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time. It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment center, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair. At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no idea who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with.

Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help, and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.

Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me. An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that. I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in.

From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night to express my gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking me why I do all of this, I will tell you … because it works, as simple as that.

In all this time that I have been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug. …. In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.[1]

Sometimes, the best we can do is pray.
So we pray.
Mostly we pray in silence.
Sometimes we pray out loud.

You know, often I share something in sermons about research or studies or psychology, something about real life application of scripture. On the subject of prayer, I have some very good new research, from Wednesday’s Bible study. It appears from my research that about 75-80% of all Presbyterians when asked to pray out loud, break into a cold sweat.

Most of us, apparently, are pretty certain that if we attempted to pray out loud, we would faint dead away on the spot. We also have some kind of belief that when we pray aloud, those who are present might be critiquing our prayer.

Maybe we are like those disciples in the verses from Mark, who ran across someone who was speaking and acting in the name of Jesus, but not doing it the way they thought it should be done. You know, implicit in that story is the disciples’ sense of superiority, the sense that they’ve got it right, and these other people don’t. So maybe we tend to look at others and think, “You’re not doing it right!” And because we do that, we assume that others are thinking the same thing about us! “You’re not doing it right!”

Perhaps there is just an inner critic living in each of our heads who says that to us – “You’re not doing it right.” And so we keep our prayers to ourselves, as if sharing them out loud would be the end of us. Some people are so reticent about their prayer concerns that they won’t even say them out loud – at some churches there are cards, or a book, that you write your prayer concerns in. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is something about prayer, the prayers we offer together, out loud, that strengthens our faith. That’s why we share our joys and concerns most weeks, and that’s why we respond in unison –“thanks be to God” or “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Often, the prayers we make out loud become encouragement to those who hear us.
Always, God hears our prayers, whether they are spoken, or offered up in silence.

This passage on prayer from the book of James is particularly about petitions – the prayers we make for ourselves, and intercessions– the prayers that we make on behalf of others. The cover of your bulletin today is an example of what author Sybil MacBeth calls “praying in color” – a kind of doodle that focuses thoughts into a prayer. This particular image is for intercessory prayer –MacBeth suggests by starting with your name for God written on one of the leaves, then writing the names of those for whom you pray on the other leaves. You can also use it for your own prayers, today and any day.

Praying in color template

Of course, there is no requirement that you pray with a crayon in your hand. But there is a Biblical commandment that we should pray. Jesus instructs us to pray or talks about prayer more than 40 times in the four gospels. In the rest of the New Testament, praying and prayer is mentioned over 100 times. Jesus gave us a model for prayer in “The Lord’s Prayer” which we pray together often. Thousands of books have been written on the subject of prayer - how to do it, and when and what to pray for.

But I really think that we can’t do it wrong.
When we lift up our voices in prayer to God,
we speak aloud the hopes of many hearts.

When we sing praise to God,
we offer up the joyful adoration of all of creation.

When we confess our failures and ask for forgiveness,
we join all our brothers and sisters in acknowledging our brokenness.

When we plead for healing on behalf of our beloved family and friends,
our words echo in the universe and reverberate with goodness.

When we speak to God the desires of our hearts,
we open ourselves to peace, to grace, and to joy.

“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Prayer is powerful.
Prayer is effective.

It is, indeed, the best we can do.

Thanks be to God.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Who Is Welcome

Mark 9:30-37
September 20, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Leader: We are so much like the early disciples! We want God to know how hard we work. We want to be praised and recognized for our efforts and successes. And we want God to pass over our failures as though they were inconsequential. When Jesus heard his disciples arguing, he responded that they should be ready for service rather than adulation. And then he placed a small child in their midst; a child with no guile, no pretense. May God help us to reach out to others, not with thought of importance or gain, but in love and compassion; truly caring for each one we meet. When we have done this, we will have truly given our hearts and our service to our Lord. Let’s listen for God’s word to us as we read responsively Mark 9:30-37

Leader: They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,

People: “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

Leader: But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them,

People: “What were you arguing about on the way?”

Leader: But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them,

People:“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Leader: Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

People: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Leader: The word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

We’re well into Mark’s gospel now, in the ninth chapter.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.
He has already stirred up all kinds of trouble.
He has gotten into some arguments with the religious leaders.
In his teachings and his actions, Jesus has gone way outside the lines.
Jesus is vulnerable now, and powerless.

He has demonstrated that he has the power of God, but he does not have any political power, none of the status of this world. He has predicted his imminent death and resurrection. He has tried and tried to get these disciples of his to understand him, to understand his mission, his teachings. I cannot imagine what Jesus must have felt when he would tell them what was going to happen, that he was going to die, and they would answer him like they did in this scripture reading.

He says, “I’m going to be killed” and they get scared. Then they wonder which one of them is greatest. Can you imagine! It’s as if a parent said to the family, “I’m going to die,” and the family begins to argue about who gets what part of the estate. It’s as you’d told a friend about your terminal diagnosis, and the friend’s reaction is to start scheming about how to get your job, or your house, or your husband or your wife.

They were afraid!
They didn’t want to ask him about that prediction of his death and resurrection. So they came up with another topic – themselves! and who of them had the most status, the most power. When he tells them about what is going to happen to him, they are terrified.

Jesus asks them, “Hey, what were you talking about back there?”
"Well…..” He sits down, tells them to huddle up. Time for a lesson, boys.
Jesus picks up this little child, and sets the child in the midst of them. You’ve seen the pictures, the sweet little toddler, sitting on Jesus’ lap, surrounded by the humbled disciples.

Isn’t this a sweet image? What a nice scene – so reassuring, to know that we are doing what Jesus said. Because we welcome children, little ones. We do, just like Jesus said. It must make Jesus so happy, to see how nice we are to kids. Sweet.

Except that is not the scene, nor is it the image, nor is being nice the message. As usual, Jesus goes outside the lines, and his lesson is not what we expect. It isn’t as if children were out just randomly walking around with the disciples. We know that the disciples had left their families behind. They were itinerant, going from place to place –no way to raise a child. And while children in the first century had nowhere near the status they do now, they were still loved by their parents. Parents didn’t just leave them to run wild in the streets of Capernaum. Most children would have been at home, doing chores, or with a tutor or learning a trade, or with other family members. In any case, the child was a symbol, standing in for all sorts of other people.

We know this is not just a story about being nice to little kids because later there IS a story about Jesus welcoming children, and about how he blessed them. This is not that story. This story about who is welcome. So when the disciples are all assembled, Jesus says, “If you want to be first, you need to be last of all.”

Give up the place where you ALWAYS sit, and leave the back rows for visitors and latecomers! Give up your spot at the head of the line. Trade it for the end of the line.
Or go outside the line altogether, and give up your place of privilege in this world.
Trade it for humility. Give up your comfortable position. Be ready to serve, to be a slave to others. Give up your some of your comfort to live more simply so that others in this world may simply live.

Jesus set this child among them- who knows where the child came from –and he said “Welcoming this one is welcoming me. Welcoming me is welcoming God.”

Serve the beggar.
Be a slave to the vulnerable.
Welcome the lowliest.
Go beyond the lines of convention and common sense.

Unfortunately, like those disciples, we want to make this story easier. We want to make this about us, so we’ve already changed the subject!

Oh, we welcome children! We do, Jesus!
No worries! We got this!
We welcome new people in worship, too.
We have greeters! And we are nice.

If somebody comes in this building on Sunday morning, we really do welcome them.
See, if we can keep the message small, keep it about how nice we are, we don’t have to think too hard about it. But Jesus never lets us off the hook that easily. Just like he challenged the religious authorities of his time, he challenges us to think more deeply. With this child in the midst of them, Jesus is demonstrating that human value is not in power or status.

This child has no status, no power, no net worth. This child is vulnerable. That child was a stand in for a whole huge group of people –the global population of nobodies.

Who is welcome?
Those who look like us?
Those who speak our language?
Those who think like us and act like us?
Do they have to come to our worship service?
Will we extend welcome to those who are not interested in church?

If Jesus were here now,
he might put a Syrian child in the midst of us,
or a Guatemalan child,
or a Mexican laborer,
or a young African American man with saggy pants and a hoody.

Then he would say,
“Whoever welcomes THIS child of God welcomes me.
And whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

But it’s scary.
It is!
What if… you fill in the blank….
What if….
It is scary because we understand that what Jesus said is true –he was going to die and rise again. There is no resurrection without a grave. And we want to stand far away from that grave. We don’t want to die to ourselves, or die to power or status, or die at all, for that matter.

Jesus welcomes all, and he does it in the shadow of the cross.
He showed us who is welcome, Jesus did.
He showed us how to be the servant of all,
how to take the last place in line,
how to leave the seat of honor for someone else.

He showed us how to give – not just out of our excess,
but to give of our very selves, to give generously and excessively.
He showed us by giving his life, by being a servant.
Jesus came, he said, not to be served, but to serve,
and he does that in forgiving us
and welcoming us into the presence of God.

Our power is not in our value, and our value is not in our power. 
Our value comes from the truth that we are precious children of God, 
redeemed by a merciful savior.

Your banker won’t do that for you.
Your coach or teacher or yoga instructor can’t give you that.
Your biggest fans or a thousand friends don’t tell you that.
You can’t get that from your mom,
or from a beautiful sunset, or a walk in the woods.
You get that in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus showed us that we are who is welcome.
That’s where our real power lies;
that’s where real status comes from.
Our power is to be servants, as Christ became a servant.
Once we were slaves to sin, but now we are set free in Christ Jesus.
Once we were dead, but now we are alive!
Because God has been merciful, we show mercy.
Because we have been blessed, we bless.
Because we have been welcomed, we welcome.
To be forgiven without condition,
loved with open arms
redeemed without reservation,
and called to a life of service –
that’s what it means to be one who is welcome.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Outside the Lines

Mark 2:1-12
September 13, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Mark 2:1-12
After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”
Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? Which is easier—to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Get up, take your mat, and go home.”
Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his mat and walked out in front of everybody. They were all amazed and praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
This is the word of the Lord. 
Thanks be to God.

Nan just told a story that you may have heard many times before. But you have never heard the story told in just that way. Even if you were at our Vacation Bible School worship, even if you were at Bible study on Wednesday, even if you have heard the story a thousand times before, you have never heard it in exactly the way you heard it just now. We humans are storied people. I heard a preacher talk about stories, once, and he said something that I have not forgotten. He said,
“We learn the stories we live by, and we live by the stories we learn.”
We learn the stories we live by, and we live by the stories we learn.

The stories we live by, as people who follow Jesus, are stories that are not ordinary. Our stories are not ordinary because Jesus was not ordinary. If you look at the stories of Jesus, the way he lived, the way he talked, the way he called people, the way he healed people, you will find nothing at all ordinary in them.

Great stories are often about ordinary people, but usually there is something in the story that is not ordinary. It is when the people in the story do something unexpected that the tale really takes off. Nobody wants to read a story that narrates the boring details of life:

“I woke up. I washed my face and brushed my teeth. I went downstairs and ate breakfast.
I walked the dog. I went to work. Nothing unusual happened. I went home. The end.”

Who cares? Maybe you, if it is your story. Maybe the dog…
But what makes stories exciting is when something unexpected enters into the narrative:
The princess kisses the frog and it turns out to be a prince.
The nerdy kid grows up to be a super hero.
The German shepherd runs into the burning building and saves the child.
The poor washerwoman dies and leaves a million dollars to a school.
These are stories that go outside the lines.

If you have ever spent time with little kids coloring pictures in a coloring book, you know that most kids have one goal – to stay inside the lines. But when you color outside the lines, you can make the story yours, and turn it into something unexpected.

If you haven’t already, look at the coloring picture on the front of your bulletin. What might be happening outside the frame? Why is that mouse on that guy’s head? Is there a cat down at the guy’s feet who chased the mouse up to the fellow’s head? Whose face might be looking out of the door or window, and what might they be saying? That lady on the left – what could she be holding in her hand?

When Jesus began his ministry, he immediately began surprising the people around him.
He went and asked John the Baptist to baptize him.
He healed people who could not be healed.
He said things that were not acceptable.
He challenged the way things had always been done;
he challenged the way people had always thought.

In this story, he forgave the man his sins.
He called the man “son,” as if he were related to him.
He engaged in a controversy with the scribes.
And then, Jesus healed the man.
He went outside the lines, in every way that was possible.

The four friends went outside the lines, too.
They didn’t let the crowds stop them.
They refused to give up.
They were intent on bringing their friend to Jesus, whatever it required of them.
Imagine the grumbling, the criticism, the anger that they may have encountered.
Imagine how crazy they must have felt as they crowded through the mob to get to the roof.
Imagine what went through their minds as Jesus saw their faith, and offered forgiveness.
Forgiveness? We came for healing. But Jesus knew what was needed most, knew when to go outside the lines and when to argue with the scribes. 

As I said, our stories are not ordinary because Jesus was not ordinary. We know how Jesus went outside the lines
in the way he lived,
in the way he loved,
in the way he healed.

When he faced the last lines,
the line of betrayal,
the line of accusation,
the line of torment,
the line of pain,
the line of suffering,
the line of death,
he CROSSED the lines.

Then he did what no one expected,
what no one thought he could do, or would do.
He created a whole new picture,
that morning at sunrise.
He went outside the lines of death
and rose again to show us
that our story is extraordinary.
We learn the stories we live by.
We live by the stories we learn.

Our stories are in Jesus,
and our stories are outside the lines.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Haves and Have-Nots

James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a (CEB)
September 6, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

This week wraps up our short series on the letter of James. We are not all the way through the book, and we’ll revisit it in a couple of weeks, but next week is RALLY SUNDAY! and we start a new series called “Jesus, Outside the Lines.”

For the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about the importance of words and works in our Christian life. In a way, this scripture wraps that conversation up and ties a bow on it, because it addresses the source and motivation of our actions and words. James does that, in part, by contrasting the wisdom of God with the wisdom of humans – divine wisdom and earthly wisdom. Let’s listen for God’s word today in James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a as we contemplate desiring God’s wisdom in our daily lives:

Are any of you wise and understanding?
Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom.
However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart,
then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth.
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above.
Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic.
Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition,
there is disorder and everything that is evil.
What of the wisdom from above?
First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient,
filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine.
Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.
What is the source of conflict among you?
What is the source of your disputes?
Don't they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives?
You long for something you don't have, so you commit murder.
You are jealous for something you can't get, so you struggle and fight.
You don't have because you don't ask.
You ask and don't have because you ask with evil intentions,
to waste it on your own cravings.
Therefore, submit to God.
Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.
Come near to God, and he will come near to you.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

It’s Labor Day tomorrow, when we think about work, maybe,
if we aren’t busy with cookouts or a weekend at the lake,
or whatever retail sales are happening.
We owe a nod as we relax tomorrow to the American labor movement.
Whatever you might say about unions, the labor movement gave us weekends,
established the eight hour day as a standard, ended child labor,
and at their high point in the middle of last century,
were correlated with the lowest level of income inequality
in the history of this country.
We owe a lot to unions, including Labor Day.[1]

Most of us have spent the great majority of our adult lives working,
either in our occupations or in our homes.
We think of our work history as central to our identity,
and for many of us, the amount of money we make or made
was a significant mark of our success.
We take our work very seriously, although when I went looking for Labor Day one-liners,
I didn’t have to search very hard.

Listen to this “work history”:
My first job was working in an orange juice factory,
but I got canned...couldn't concentrate.
Next I tried working in a muffler factory but that was too exhausting.
I attempted to be a deli worker, but any way I sliced it,
I couldn't cut the mustard.
My best job was being a musician, but eventually I found I wasn't noteworthy.
…want me to stop now? …okay – a few more…
Next was a job in a shoe factory; I tried but it just wasn’t a good fit.
I became a professional fisherman,
but discovered that I couldn't live on the net income.
After many years of trying to find steady work I finally got a job as a historian
until I realized there was no future in it.

Of course, this scripture doesn’t address our work,
or how we make a living, directly.
But it does speak to how we make a life,
and it addresses some of the dangers
of a life that is focused on ambition, acquisition, and always wanting more.
In a way, this text challenges some of our closely held American ideals.
After all, who thinks ambition is a bad thing?
Who wants to live a humble lifestyle?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead,
nothing wrong with wanting a comfortable life,
a nice home, beautiful clothes, some of life’s luxuries.
Nothing inherently wrong with ambition, right?

James would disagree with that.
In the fifth chapter of this book he addresses the rich
who exploit the poor with very strong language.
In his world, being a have-not is infinitely preferable to being a have.
Here’s what he says: Weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you, rich folks!
All your wealth is going to rot and rust,
and that rust will “eat your flesh like fire.”
Then he really gets going:
“Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields,
which you kept back by fraud, cry out,
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”

James takes a dim view of worldly success, and worldly wisdom.
He would take a very dim view of the fact that last year,
corporate profits were at their highest in 85 years,
and employee compensation was at its lowest in 65 years.[2]

But James is not primarily interested in GDP and the stock market,
nor is he particularly interested in our personal monetary wealth.
He takes a very dim view of our greed and ambition ,
of our cravings, our appetite for pleasure,
our working and working and working for more, more, more.
Instead, he points us to God’s ambition for us – to crave righteousness,
thirst for wisdom, and hunger for justice.

If we are to be ambitious, James says, let us be ambitious for God’s kingdom.
If we are greedy for more, let it be for more opportunities to love our neighbor.
If we are to be wise, let it be God’s wisdom, and not our own.
It is true that human ambition may get us material success,
but it is also true that ambitious people are no happier than others, nor do they live longer.[3]
The American dream may be to work hard and climb to the top,
but the haves are no happier than the have-nots.

Unless we look at God’s economy and God’s labor market.
In the Bible, the happy ones are not the one percent.
The blessed ones are not the millionaires.
The honored ones are not the ones with social prestige.
The mighty ones are not the ones with political power.
Wisdom is not equated with the Ivy League, or even with the shrewd investor.

In God’s economy, the happy ones are those who are righteous.
The blessed ones are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
The honored are those who are insulted and reviled and excluded
and persecuted for the sake of Jesus.
The mighty are those who are strong in faith.
The wise are those who seek after God.

In God’s labor market, the haves are those who walk in the way of Jesus.
They may look foolish to the rest of the world. In fact, they almost certainly do.
The Apostle Paul said “the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

But the haves have something that the have-nots have not got.
The have-nots are jealous, struggling, fighting, craving,
and they do not see that God offers them grace.
The haves are ambitious to do good, to love God and love neighbor.
Our progress will be measured by our acts of mercy.
Our success will be compensated by satisfaction.
Our wealth cannot be added up on a spreadsheet,
but will be accrued in hearts overflowing with love.
Our performance evaluations will say one thing – grace
and our annual strategic goals will always be the same –
to draw near to God,
and to sow the seeds of justice by our acts of peace.
May God bless the workers with a harvest of joy.