Sunday, July 30, 2017

"What Is the World Like When God's Will Is Done?" A Sermon on Matthew 13 from Littlefield Presbyterian Church

"What Is the World Like When God's Will Is Done?"

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

How can we speak of God and how God works?  There are no words that are true enough…right enough.  How can the language of earth capture the reality of heaven and of God’s purposes for earth?   How do we speak of holy things?  Sometimes we struggle to find the right words. We don’t do it well.  But because we need to try, we tend to talk about holy things by making comparisons to ordinary things…things we know.
            Jesus did it all the time.  Throughout the gospels, and in Matthew’s gospel in particular, Jesus was always making comparisons.  Sinners are like lost sheep.  The word of God is like seed sown on different kinds of soil.  The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast.  God is like the owner of a vineyard.  Over and over again in Matthew, we hear Jesus saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like this…”
            Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught that way?  He taught in parables and made surprising comparisons between holy things and ordinary things.  He kept breaking open peoples’ understanding of things and inviting them to explore them all over again. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we like explanations far more than being teased into thinking harder or asking tough questions.
            According to C.H. Dodd, who was one of the great New Testament scholars of the last century, a parable is “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application as to tease it into active thought.  Parables are suggestive, evocative, sometimes disconcerting, offering glimpses into the kingdom of God, but not explanations or definitions.[1]
            Robert Farrar Capon, another biblical scholar who specialized in the parables of Jesus puts it this way: “With Jesus, parables are used “not to explain things to people’s satisfaction but to call attention to the un-satisfactoriness of all their previous explanations and understandings.”[2]
            The gospel lessons the lectionary gave us for the past two weeks were about the sower and seeds and about weeds, and they may have appealed to the farmers in the crowd. But the parables we have today might have been more meaningful to fishermen, bakers, and merchants.

            In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus strings a series of comparisons.  The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, he says…like yeast…like buried treasure…like a fine pearl…like a net cast into the sea.  The images come quickly, right after another, with no preparation, no explanation, no time for questions and answers.
Jesus zings us with them—these five—like a slide show…or like scenes glimpsed through the windows of a fast-moving car.  The kingdom of heaven is like this…and this…and this, Jesus says.  It’s almost like Jesus doesn’t want us to get stuck on any one of them, but to be dazzled by the number and variety of things the kingdom of heaven is like.
            The first two comparisons seem easy enough, at first glance.  The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed or a handful of yeast-- nothing big or much to look at.  But the results are amazing! 
            In verse 32, the surprising turn is that the seed grows into a tree where even the birds take refuge.  The mustard plant is an annual herb that normally grows no more than six feet in height and would be considered a shrub, rather than a tree.  It’s in the imagination of the parable that a mustard seed can produce a tree with branches…and be similar to the imperial trees that symbolize kingdoms.   
            Tom Long suggests that Jesus must have had a twinkle in his eye as he played on the popular image, drawn from the Old Testament, that a mighty political kingdom is like a great and strong tree.  He may have been alluding to the depiction in Daniel of Babylon as a tree standing at the center of the earth, with a top that reached to heaven, a tree that was visible to the ends of the earth, abundant enough that “the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living things were fed.”[3]
            They thought great kingdoms are supposed to look like the massive cedars of Lebanon or towering sequoias; instead, Jesus offers the humble image of a mustard bush.  The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard bush?  The main point is that the kingdom grows to great size from very small beginnings.  But another point gets made as well.  This greatness doesn’t come in the form we expect.
As it turns out, the parable of the yeast has the same kind of unexpected twist.  To our ears, it may sound like a gentle cooking illustration.  But in Jesus’ day, yeast was a popular symbol for corruption.  To observe that “a little yeast leavens the loaf” was similar to saying “one bad apple spoils the barrel.” 
            Not only that, but what the woman does with this yeast implies some stealth.  You’d miss this in the New RSV and the NIV, but according to the original Greek, she hides the yeast.  And she is apparently baking for a small army, because she hides the yeast in “three measures of flour”—which is about fifty pounds of flour—enough to make bread for a hundred people!
            When you put all this together, the parable of the yeast pictures the kingdom as a hidden force, working silently to “corrupt” the world-- that is to corrupt the corrupt.[4] 
We can’t see the kingdom pervading the world.  But when its hidden fermentation is accomplished, the bland flour of the world will be transformed into the joyous bread of life.

The next pair of comparisons are harder.  Jesus has left the crowds and gone into a house.  He’s talking with his disciples privately when he tells the next two parables:  the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl.   In each case, someone sells everything that he has in order to possess something of great value. 
            The point for both parables is that the kingdom of heaven is like this.  When people truly encounter it, and realize what it is, it enters their hearts, seizes their imaginations, and overwhelms them with its precious value.  No price is too great.  Nothing that they own can compete with its value. 

The final glimpse we had today compares the kingdom of heaven and a fishing net.  The fisherman throws the net into the sea, and he doesn’t have any idea what kind of fish he will catch.  He doesn’t hesitate to cast the net for fear that he’ll catch the wrong kind of fish.  He casts the net wide and deep.  The sorting out of the good fish from the bad fish will take place later.
            So it is with the kingdom of heaven, and with the church.  The doors of the kingdom of heaven are thrown open… the programs are open to all… the net is cast wide and deep.  Into the church come people who are deeply serious about the things of God and people who are looking for a pretty sanctuary in which to get married.  Some of the people are lonely or hurting.  People show up who are hungry to do righteousness, and some come because their spouse or a friend comes and they come along because they’re going out for lunch afterward. 
            The kingdom of heaven and the life of God’s people is wonderfully open and nondiscriminatory.  Everybody is welcome to come on in.  The job of sorting everybody out is left to the angels-- in God’s time.

Have you understood all this?  Jesus asks.  Do you understand the profound truths of God?  The deepest mystery of life—the secrets of the kingdom of heaven?
            Then, how are we to live, according to these glimpses of heaven? 

            This is important. The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is a constant theme throughout the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew alone, “Kingdom of Heaven” is used over 30 times. The term has been understood in various ways: in pointing to the Parousia and return of Jesus, to the true life that is after life, to the promise of the social gospel, where the Kingdom can be created here on earth, in this lifetime.  I think Jesus is talking about the Christian project on more than one level, talking about the Kingdom of Heaven in the time that is “not yet” fulfilled, but also in the “now,” as his followers embody his love and compassion and justice and, in doing so, gradually transform the world.
            God’s presence and power is at work in the world, even when people don’t notice it until a time when it’s unmistakable and transformative.  Even when we can’t perceive it, even when it looks like nothing is happening and there are no places for the birds to nest and no bread to feed the hungry crowds, the Kingdom of heaven is present and coming.
            Do we understand these things?

            I believe Jesus calls us to live with open eyes, minds, and hearts, never knowing where or how or when God’s surprising grace will erupt amidst the ordinariness of life. 
            Like those who go out and sell all they have for a field with buried treasure or a pearl of great value, God sometimes calls us to decisive, uncalculated action.  Such extravagant living goes against the careful, calculating kind of living most of us have been taught to practice.  The subversiveness of this and many of Jesus’ teachings challenges us to live as people of faith.
            The good news is that the kingdom of heaven is hidden in the ordinary stuff of life--at work infiltrating, permeating, and growing in unexpected and inevitable ways.  The kingdom is incarnate within us and grows through us, if we trust God enough to fill us and use us.
            Like the yeast, which was hidden at first, mixed invisibly into the flour, the insignificant suddenly becomes significant, bubbling and fermenting and expanding, as flat, passive grain can be transformed into fat, fresh, life-filled bread.
            As we study the Bible and pray and worship together, we can come to understand these things about the Kingdom of Heaven and find our lives being changed, coming more into God’s reality and rule.

            As disciples of Christ, we are called to make a difference in order for God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. Like the first disciples, we may find ourselves doing things like sharing all we have with others, caring for those who are marginalized, and working more boldly for God’s peace and justice in the world.
            We can find encouragement in Jesus’ parables: Hang in there! God’s new reality is closer than you think, already hidden in our lives, even if we can’t always feel it or see it.
            No matter what it might look like, God’s kingdom will prevail. In the face of conflict, we can claim God’s peace. In the face of illness, we look to God’s healing, in whatever form it may take. In the face of hate, we can proclaim love. We can live in hope, because the kingdom is coming.  In God’s time, it will transform everything.         
            This is the Good News of the gospel. 
`           Thanks be to God!

Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
July 30, 2017

[1] C. H. Dodd, Parables of the Kingdom (Scribner, 1961).

[2] Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of the Kingdom (Eerdman’s, 1990), p. 6.
[3] Thomas G. Long, Matthew.  (Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), p. 153.  The scripture citation is Dan. 4:10-12.
[4] I am indebted to Tom Long for this insight, in Matthew, p. 154.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Planting as an Act of Faith:" A Sermon from Littlefield Presbyterian Church

Purple Coneflower in my neighbor's yard. The photo will make sense to you if you read the sermon.

"Planting as an Act of Faith"

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

         Those of us who are gardeners plant our gardens in the spring and wait eagerly for what we planted to produce flowers or vegetables. 
            For a few weeks, I had an abundance of black raspberries.  But not too much else in my garden is ripe yet.  A little lettuce. Some chard.  But no ripe cucumbers or peppers-- yet.  Growing plants need time.
This is a good time of year to think about what the Parable of the Sower can teach us. 
Jesus has come out of the house and is sitting beside the sea. Such great crowds gather around him that he gets into a boat and sits there, while the crowd stands on the beach. And he tells them many things in parables, beginning with the parable we heard today.

            "A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 
            Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty...."        

            This is rich...  deep...  mysterious stuff!   Those who have ears to hear-- listen!”

            So-- what do we hear in the parable?  I think we get some clues from the context.  Chapter 13 begins with the words "the same day," which connects it to what has happened before. 
The parables of chapter 13 are Jesus' response to the rejection he has experienced in the preceding two chapters.   He’s trying to help people understand why a lot of people aren't responding positively to what Jesus is saying and doing.

Those of us who are gardeners know what we do to try to produce a good harvest.  We prepare the soil. We buy good seed and plant it. We water when necessary. Then comes the time of waiting-- the time between planting and harvest.          
            But we are well aware of how many things are out of our control.
Things can happen that we don’t control. Heat waves.  Drought.  Torrential rain or hail storms.  Hungry rabbits. We're not in charge of any of this.
Even in good soil, the increase differs.  “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Jesus tells the crowds that they won’t always be successful when they sow the seeds of the kingdom. Did you figure out the statistics from what he says?  Sowing the seeds of the kingdom results in failure three out of four times.  Seventy-five percent of the time, the work you do related to the kingdom of heaven will not yield anything.  Nothing.
The Rev. Jill Duffield suggests we imagine that stat on a college recruitment postcard or an annual financial report or the list of best jobs or a guide to happiness, health, and wealth. “Come join us and fail--often, repeatedly, spectacularly, totally!  See your efforts result in nothing!  Not exactly the top 10 ways to wealth or three easy steps to happiness or 30 days to a thinner you.”[1]

When Jesus tells this parable to the crowds and to the disciples he’s mentoring, he knows that the road ahead will become increasingly risky and harrowing. If we’re going to follow Jesus and sow seeds of the kingdom of heaven, we’re going to get plenty of opportunities to learn from failure. 
Jesus has already warned the disciples of persecutions to come. In the very next chapter, John the Baptist will be beheaded. God’s present and coming kingdom will not come without great resistance, and Jesus doesn’t try to hide that truth. Failure is certain. Sometimes our best efforts won’t bear any fruit-- or at least not the kind or amount of fruit we hope for.
            We are living in anxious times.  Some of us find ourselves having moments of despair at the state of the world.  When we look around, there are more problems than we can possibly solve. And sometimes we worry and wonder: “What’s this about, God?  Have we been planting enough seed? Are we doing something wrong?
            In agricultural terms, we live between the time of planting and the harvest, and it is a time of uncertainty.  We want to trust that we will see the planting bear fruit.  We want to believe that what God has begun will come to fruition.
            Barbara Brown Taylor calls the process of how seed sprouts and grows "agricultural grace."[2]   We're not in control.  As much as we'd like to keep digging up the seed to check and see if it's sprouted yet, we need to plant and then wait in faith. 

            I'm continually amazed and surprised by the plants that appear in places where I didn't plant them.  Under my blue spruce trees, in the shade garden, beside the hostas and lily of the valley, I have a couple of Rose of Sharon shrubs. One grows up against the trunk of one of the spruces—so close I couldn’t dig it out if I tried.  
            My next-door neighbors on one side don’t seem to care about anything in their yard except the required mowing, yet this year I see some Purple Coneflowers growing next to their street tree, apparently from seeds from my plants.  
            I find Black-Eyed Susan’s and Purple Coneflowers and Feverfew Chrysanthemums and Toadflax and Cornflowers and Rose Campion growing in places I know I didn't plant them.  Over the years, my neighbors have seedlings from my flowers and tomatoes growing on their side of the fence-- things that they didn't plant.  Sometimes a dill plant grows in the expansion joints of my driveway. I've planted lots of flowers and herbs.  But the wind and the birds have a part in the planting too.
            Sometimes I’ve thought the White Columbine I brought from Pennsylvania is gone, crowded out by more aggressive plants.  Then a season or two later it shows up again and blooms--a reminder of Helen, the woman who gave me the plant as a parting gift when I moved to Michigan.  
            I’ve never planted any common milkweed in my garden, but I have an abundance of it in my garden to provide a good habitat for Monarch butterflies. The seeds just came-- carried by birds or the wind.
            A sower went out to sow….    
            In the church, we're not in control of the harvest.  That's up to God.  What we are responsible for is sowing gospel seeds.  If we let our anxiety take over, we might keep the seeds in our pocket, or plant them in safe little pots where we can keep a close eye on them or try to control them…  or dig them up every day or two to see if they've sprouted. 
            Here at Littlefield, we've been planted in a neighborhood where we don't get to see dramatic results, in terms of the church growing a lot bigger.  Sometimes it's really hard to trust God for the harvest.  But planting is an act of faith.  We've been planted, here as a result of seeds that were planted earlier, and we're responsible for sowing seeds in faith and hope.
            The seeds I'm talking about sowing have to do with embodying Jesus Christ in our actions and words.  I'm talking about reaching out in respect and friendship, honoring each person we meet, caring enough about them to take the time to get to know them...  finding out what they value… and need… and believe.
            I'm talking about being so filled with the love and peace and joy of Jesus Christ that some people will want to know how we got that way.
The parable of the sower and the soils reminds us that we are not in charge of the harvest.  We are called to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and to work as co-gardeners with God to sow the seeds of love and righteousness and justice.
            The seeds will land where they land.  Some of the seeds will feed the birds...  and they may end up being planted in some unlikely places!  Some of the seeds fall into the ground.  There in the dark earth, where you can't see and don't know how, they will push up through layers of dirt-- sometimes even through stone or cracks in concrete-- through whatever is in their way. 
            "Some seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain..."
            The good news is that God the gracious gardener is in charge of the growth.  The harvest will come in God’s time.

            Many of us have heard the story of Johnny Appleseed—that legendary frontiersman who walked across Ohio and other states giving out seeds for fruit trees.  Many generations benefitted from Johnny Appleseed’s passion for planting. 
            How different would things have been if Johnny Appleseed was worried about seeing the results of his efforts?  Suppose he didn’t trust the power of the seeds to grow?  Suppose he felt personally responsible for hovering over each and every tree until it was producing fruit?  How many trees would he have been able to plant in his lifetime?
            So it is with our sharing the good news of God’s love.  The resistance to God’s reign of justice, mercy and grace is real and strong. But our faith teaches us that, ultimately, goodness is stronger than evil, life is stronger than death. There will be discouraging times when we don’t see the yield from the seeds we plant. But there will be bursts of amazing, life-giving, abundant growth.

            Our job is to work with God in planting the seed, and then trust that grace happens beyond, through, and despite our efforts to control it or keep it in our back yard.    God can use our efforts to bring forth an abundant harvest—in God’s good time.  The Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven, and we will have the joy of being part of it!              
            Thanks be to God!

The Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
July 16, 2017

[2]Barbara Brown Taylor, Mixed Blessings.  (Susan Hunter Publications, Atlanta, Georgia, 1986), p. 68.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Holy Hospitality." A Sermon from Littlefield Presbyterian Church on Matthew 10:40-42

"Holy Hospitality"

Matthew 10:40-42

            July Fourth is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.
         The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Most of us are less familiar with the part of this historic document that calls the original inhabitants of our nation “merciless Indian Savages.”  (Don’t take my word for this. Google it and read the document. I think we ought to read our nation’s founding documents at least once a year anyway.)
         We need to remember that each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were white, land-owning men.  When the Constitution was ratified in 1787, slavery was assumed as part of the way things were in the world.  The Constitution declared that a slave would count as three-fifths of a person in determining the population of a state and deciding how many representatives the state would have in Congress. 
         Not everyone was included in the vision of “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence.  It wasn’t until 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, that slavery and involuntary servitude were abolished in the United States.  In 1870 voting rights were extended to all male citizens, and in 1920 women gained the right to vote.  The road to freedom and justice for all is not an easy one. 

         On this Independence Day weekend, it’s a time for us to celebrate the many things that are good about our nation.
         But we need to remember that we follow Jesus, who came to live among us, full of grace and truth, preaching a gospel of repentance, and who claims our ultimate loyalty.  As followers of Jesus, we are continually challenged to re-dedicate ourselves to his mission, to living more fully into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice and peace, which we also know as Beloved Community.  As followers of Jesus, we need to repent of the ways we benefit from various privileges that others are not free to enjoy, of the systemic injustices we are reluctant to challenge.

            So I think it’s fitting that this Sunday has been designated as Immigration Sunday in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and that the gospel lesson assigned for today challenges us to think more deeply about what it means to welcome one another.
         Hospitality to strangers is a major theme in the Bible. When the Hebrews wander in the wilderness, God is a gracious host and provides them with manna and water. When the Hebrew refugees finally settle down and have a home, hospitality is written into their holy law: “You are to love the sojourner,” says the book of Deuteronomy, “for you yourselves were once sojourners in the land of Egypt.”[1]
         In Leviticus, we are taught, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the native-born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”[2]
         The theme continues in the New Testament when Jesus teaches that acts of hospitality are actually a prime indicator of a person’s relationship with God. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”[3]
         The Book of Hebrews refers back to the Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” it says, “for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”[4]
         Our scriptures make it clear that hospitality to strangers is fundamental to our Christian way of life.

            Regardless of our political leanings, it seems that, at the very least, followers of Jesus know we are called to be loving, merciful, and compassionate. This should include those who pick our crops and do a lot of things that most Americans don’t want to do. At the very least, we can understand the anguish that many parents experience, that they are willing to seek a better life for their children--even if it means risking their lives. At the very least, our hearts should break when we hear about children being torn from their parents by immigration raids.
         At the least, those of us who don’t really understand the issues related to immigration and immigration reform need to commit ourselves to get better informed. Some of us took a step in that direction recently when we read and discussed the book Tell Me How It Ends in our Engage! Book Group. .[5]
         Valeria Luiselli, is a Mexican writer who was dealing with her own struggles with the immigration process, trying to get her green card, when she and her niece ended up serving as volunteer interpreters for a surge of child refugees    with an immigration court in New York City during the summer of 2014.  
         Depending on how the children answered the forty questions on the questionnaire, the children might or might not be granted legal sanctuary of some sort and a future in the United States.
         The children were from Mexico. Guatemala, El Salvadore, or Honduras. “How did you travel here?” they ask the children.  Most said, “I came on La Bestia,” which literally means “the beast,” and refers to the freight trains that cross Mexico.  As many as half a million Central Americans migrants ride La Bestia annually, on top the rail-cars or in between them. Thousands have died or been gravely injured.   The train itself is dangerous, and there are additional threats from smugglers, thieves, soldiers, or policemen who frequently threaten or attack the people on board. 
         Luiselli writes that, despite the dangers, desperate people, many of them children, “chase after life, even if that chase might end up killing them. Children run and flee. They have an instinct for survival, perhaps, that allows them to endure almost anything just to make it to the other side of horror, whatever might be waiting there for them.”[6]
         Luiselli had shared some of the children’s stories with her young daughter in the course of her work, and her daughter repeatedly asked, “Tell me how it ends, Mamma.” Luiselli has no answers for her.  So far, there are no happy endings. But toward the end of the book she offers a small hint of promise. This is an informative and heartbreaking little book, and it could be a start for any of you who need to understand immigration better.

         Our scriptures make it clear that extending hospitality to strangers is fundamental to our Christian way of life.  But what does that mean? What does it look like?
         Hospitality can mean some obvious things: offering food, drink, and shelter to the stranger in need. But in the Bible, hospitality is a much deeper concept. Hospitality is an attitude, a disposition of the heart, out of which acts of generosity naturally flow. Hospitality is a habit of the heart that needs to be cultivated. In order to do that, we need to overcome our hostility toward people who are strange to us.  We need to remember that each human being is created in the image of God[7] and is a beloved child of God.

         Our Christian faith calls us to welcome the stranger, but that idea is loaded for some, in our divided country.  As followers of Christ, we need to live as if we know that our citizenship is in heaven.[8] People of faith have a heritage of radical and risky welcome that goes back over the centuries.
         When individuals and congregations chose to serve as a stop on the underground railroad during slavery in the United States of America, the church was engaging in the risky business of welcome as sanctuary.
          In the late twentieth century, churches responded to a humanitarian crisis of thousands of Central American refugees fleeing violent conflicts, which in many cases were fueled by United States government policies. These churches created the 1980’s Sanctuary Movement, born along the southern borders of the United States.
         In recent months, the number of churches who have officially declared themselves to be sanctuary churches has grown exponentially. I know of Methodist churches in Detroit and Ferndale who have offered sanctuary for refugees. In Western North Carolina, congregations who can’t or don’t want to declare Sanctuary can declare themselves as a “Supporting Sanctuary” church, pledging resources, people, and assistance to those churches who have declared Sanctuary.
         Some of us, as individuals, have provided what support we can for the immigrant community by purchasing food, diapers, and other necessities.

         I think we have a lot of ambivalence about what Jesus’ call to welcome should look like today, in our context.  What does it look like to embody Jesus’ radical welcome?
         We call this space in which we worship the “sanctuary.” I’ve been thinking about what the word means, so I looked it up and found that it can describe the most sacred part of a religious building, where worship services are held. But it also means “a place of refuge and protection.”
         I think we need to practice talking about this in loving and constructive ways. Is this a place of refuge and protection for us? Is it a place of refuge and protection for others?  Whom are we willing to welcome, in the name of Jesus?
         I don’t have any definitive answers for the questions I’m asking today, but I do believe we need to be talking and praying about them.

         As we come to the Lord’s Table today, may we be open to experience Christ’s presence in this holy mystery.  May we be fed and strengthened.  As we experience God’s gracious love, may we be transformed.  May our commitment to Jesus Christ and his radical welcome be renewed.
         Then let us go out into the world to serve Jesus by speaking and embodying God’s truth and love.

Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
July 2, 2017

[1] Deuteronomy 10:19
[2] Levitius 19:34
[3] Matthew 25
[4] Hebrews 13:2
[5] Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (Coffee House Press, 2017).
[6] Luiselli, pages 19-20.
[7] Genesis 1:26
[8] Philippians 3:20