Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wesley’s General Rules: Rule #3 - Stay in Love with God

(Read Mark 1: 29-37 and Psalm 63:1-8)

Last Monday, a man woke to the sound of his alarm. Beep. Beep. Beep. He hit snooze twice before finally rolling out of bed. He performed his morning routine mindlessly. Shave, shower, dress, eat breakfast—in the middle of breakfast he remembered that his cell phone bill was due, so he left the remains of his cereal to get soggy, and went to pay his bill online. He got distracted and spent 15 minutes surfing the net. When he finally noticed the time, he realized he was going to be late for work. He rushed to put the dishes in the dishwasher, brush his teeth, put on his coat, get in his car, and sped off to work.

Later that evening, in a different house, in a different town, a woman put her children to bed. She was so exhausted, she almost fell asleep while reading them a story. Upon leaving their room, she headed to the kitchen to finish putting the dishes in the dishwasher. She wanted to take a shower before bed, but she was too tired. Her last thought as her head hit the pillow was: Oh no. I forgot to make their lunches.

Life is busy. Most of us feel worn out and tired on a fairly regular basis. With all that we have to do in a day, with all the various people and activities clamoring for our attention, with all the worries, it’s no wonder that we have lost a sense of wonder in our lives.
Our minds keep us in perpetual motion, remembering this, planning that, figuring out something. While lost in our heads, we have lost touch with our spirits. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that fatigue, depression and anxiety are the dis-eases of our time.

There is no shortage of busy people, no shortage of responsible people, no shortage of accomplished people in 21st century America. “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people” (Foster, Richard. Celebration of Disciplines. Pg. 1). People filled with wonder. People who are grounded, centered. People whose primary concern is engaging life to its fullest, and who are deeply in touch with the Spirit of Life flowing through them and animating everything around them.

I desire to be a person of depth; one who explores and invests in
the kingdom of heaven on earth. As Henry David Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to suck the marrow from the bones of life; to put to rout all that was not life, and not to come to the end of life, and discover that I had not lived.”

Wesley’s third rule, to stay in love with God, can help us accomplish this very worthwhile, this very holy, goal.

In Wesley’s original language, the third rule was, “Attend upon the ordinances of God.” Ordinance is a word we don’t use much these days. As Wesley used it, ordinance meant a custom or practice established by long usage or a Christian rite. “To Wesley, it was a word that described the practices that kept the relationship between God and humans vital, alive, and growing. He names public worship of God, the Lord’s Supper, private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study and fasting as essential to a faithful life” (Job, Reuben. Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007. Pg. 53).

By attending upon the ordinances of God, we come into contact with God and that helps us to stay in love. And to say in love with God is to stay in love with life. God is life afterall. We will always have things to do, responsibilities, etc, but our orientation to them and our perspective on life will be different if we carve out time to remember who and what we are living for.

In making time for God, we are nourished and nurtured. We are connected with our source and all that is good.

In additional to the spiritual practices that Wesley encourages (and I agree those are vital to living a spiritually healthy life), each of you might have personalized practices that put you in touch with God’s Spirit, that ground you and fill you with a sense of gratitude and wonder. Taking a Sabbath is a perfect start. Imagine a whole day dedicated to life and love and rest. And if you can’t find a day, how about a Sabbath morning, or a Sabbath afternoon or a Sabbath evening?

For you, staying in love with God might mean taking nature walks, meditating, reading spiritual literature or a self-help books, dancing, singing, listening to music, arts, crafts, fishing, golfing, watching a movie. These can all be entryways to connect with the divine. As long as your practices or disciplines help you to feel the Spirit, as long as they enhance your sense of wonder, offer insight and meaning into the depths of your soul, as long as they inspire faith, give strength and guidance to your life, provide rest and refreshment, that is what matters most.

Following this rule is nourishment for our souls. It re-energizes our life force.

Do you make time for such ways of living? If not, life will increasingly be overwhelming and alienating, rushed and distracted. That is not the life meant for the faithful. We are here to live and love. To see beauty and know peace. To rejoice and comfort one another.

Also, if we ever hope to fulfill Wesley’s first two rules, to do no harm and to do all the good we can, (which aren’t just Wesley’s rules but Christ’s commands), then we must stay in love with God because our love for God is what helps us to love each other and fuels our efforts.

Rueben Job’s book, Three Simple Rules says this: “The first two rules are important and bring immediate results, but without the third rule, the first two become increasingly impossible. Staying in love with God is the foundation of all of life. It is in a vital relationship with God that we are enlivened, sustained, guided, called, sent, formed, and transformed. The writer of Psalm 127 [v.1a] declares, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.’ We practice the rules, but God sends the power that enables us to keep them” (Ibid, pg. 48).

I love today’s passage from Mark. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, then he is healing those who are sick and possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered around the door of the house he was at. Finally after a long day and night of service, he takes some time to go off by himself and pray because he’s smart! and he knows that if he is going to continue healing and teaching, he needs to be renewed by God. When the disciples can’t find him though, the text says that they hunt for him. And when they find him, they say, “Everyone is searching for you” (Mark 1: 36). All the more reason why he needed to go away, why he needed to keep the love between him and God flowing.

So the 3 rules are: #1 - Do no harm-not to yourself, not to any person, and not to the earth or any living creature on the earth. #2 - Do good- in any way you can, big or small, in all the places you can, for all the people you can, paying special attention to those you might easily overlook. And #3 - so you don’t burn out and so life remains a joyful gift, take time to stay in love with God.

On a Monday morning, in a warm house, a man awoke to the sound of his alarm. Beep. Beep. Beep. He hit snooze twice, and as he slowly aroused from sleep, he remembered yesterday, Sunday. It had been a beautiful day. He’d gone to church with his family, then shared a wonderful meal with them. He took a nap, something he rarely did. And then he went to the driving range with his son and daughter. Before falling asleep, he and his wife talked about how blessed they were. He slept peacefully that night. His snooze went off again bringing him back to reality. He smiled and took a deep breath before rolling out of bed.

On that same Monday evening, in another house, in another town, a mother put her children to bed while her husband did the dishes. She took a warm shower, and as she packed the kids lunches, she thought about what a relaxing weekend they had all had together. Her last thought as her head hit the pillow was to recall
part of the Psalm she had heard at church that weekend. “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63: 5).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wesley's General Rules: Rule #2 - Do Good.

(Read Luke 10:25-37)

As a child, I felt bad for Tim Kassuf. He was the kid who everyone made fun of and pushed around. In 4th grade, he had big, thick brown glasses. His feet turned out so he kind of walked like a duck. He was short and chubby. He dressed like a dad. Not that any of these things really matter or say anything about what kind of a person Tim was, but they were reason enough for a bunch of insensitive children to be cruel.

I felt bad for Tim Kassuf, but I never defended him, and I never befriended him. I didn’t tell the other kids to be quiet, and I didn’t go over to him and say hello. I actually really liked Tim Kassuf’s laugh. I can still remember it. It was a happy, jolly giggle of sorts that spread across his whole face and squinted his eyes behind his thick, brown glasses. I never told Tim this of course, and I never told him jokes to get him to laugh. I just felt sorry for him from afar. Even worse, I ignored him.

Can you remember someone in your past who you were weren’t good to? Someone you didn’t know how to help so you just ignored them? The dorky kid in school? The crying lady from your office? The old guy who lived across the street? Your own child crying but you couldn’t deal with it? Your parents or grandparents? The bum on the street who asked you for money and smelled like urine? I bet we can all remember people that we would go back and treat differently. Or maybe you were the one who other people didn’t stop to help when you wished they would have. On behalf of all the people who don’t know better, I apologize.

John Wesley’s second rule is to do good. Last week, we talked about his first rule, to do no harm. Next week, we will talk about his third rule, to stay in love with God. Today, we explore his second rule: do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can. It’s a tall order to fill like most of Jesus’ instructions. It challenges us to be more generous and courageous than we typically are.

I started thinking about all this when I read the parable of the Good Samaritan. I wasn’t the one who really inflicted much pain on Tim Kassuf, but I walked right by him. In this most beloved of parables, there is a man stripped, beaten and suffering. The robbers who inflicted his pain quickly disappear, and two strangers, one after the other, walk by him laying there on the ground practically dead. The first two, a priest and a Levite, they look at the hurt man, and they look away. They pass by him on the other side of the street doing nothing to help. The third stranger, however, the one known as the good Samaritan, he is moved to pity when he sees the man, and so he bandages his wounds, he takes him to an inn and pays for a place for him to stay as he heals. The good Samaritan has mercy and compassion. He takes care of someone he doesn’t know and didn’t hurt himself and nurses him back to life.

We all admire the helpful Samaritan, and we know the point of the parable is to be like him, which is easier said than done. Actually, I found it quite easy to think of possible reasons why the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side. They are the same reasons we have today for not helping those who are in need.

In no specific order of importance, here are some reasons, or perhaps I should say excuses, why we might not do all the good we can, in all the places we can, to all the people we can.

• Afraid-

Most of the commentaries on the good Samaritan raise this issue. What if the robbers weren’t that far off and were waiting for another victim. If you came across the victim of a violent crime, might not you be afraid to go near? Perhaps you have heard this before, but law officials recommend yelling “fire” not “help” if you are ever being attacked. People are curious about fires; they are afraid of crime.

Another example is that you might actually be afraid of the person in need. It wasn’t that long ago that no one would touch a child with AIDS. And what about homeless people and drug addicts. Our fear of them prevents us from reaching out to them.

• Don’t think its any of your business/don’t want to interfere

Anorexic girl at college that I never approached but who desperately needed someone to help her.

• Insecurity/indecision/do not feel empowered-

“Do you think they really need help?”
“What can I possibly do to help”
"I have too many problems of my own to offer any sort of help to another."

• Self-oriented-

You have your own agenda in mind, and thus, rationalize to yourself that they do not need your help. An experiment done on people who had time versus people who “didn’t.” In this experiment, an actor who looked desperately in need of help lay on the steps of a college building where students were going for interviews. There were three groups. The first had a wide window in which to do their interview. Several approached the broken man. The second group had a more specific time to do their interview, but there was some lattitude. A few approached the broken man. The third group had a specific time in which they had to do their interview. Few if any stopped to help. The message: when we believe our needs and responsibilities are greater than the others, we will ignore them.

• We don’t see or don’t want to see the people who truly need our help.

Many people unconsciously put blinders on we get near people who don’t look like us, who aren’t familiar to us, or people that make us feel uncomfortable. And because we don’t really “see” them, our consciences don’t become too troubled when we walk right by. I was able to ignore Tim Kassouf because I chose not to really look at him, to see the pain he must have felt being ignored and ridiculed by a few kids every day while many kids pretended nothing was wrong.

A great example of this was made clear to me from the movie, Music Within. In this film, Richard is a Vietnam vet who lost his hearing during the war. In time, he realizes that the only person he can hear is a man named Art, who has Cerebral Palsy. For those of you who don’t know, CP often confines people to a wheelchair and affects their motor skills so that their movements are uncontrolled and spasmatic, and they often speak in a slow, fragmented style. Those with CP have difficulty speaking clearly, but they are highly intelligent people. This means that some perceive them as mentally retarded when in actuality, they are as mentally capable as any of us. Cerebral Palsy comes down to nerve muscle dysfunction.

In an interesting twist of fate, and this is a true story by the way, Richard realizes that the only person he can hear and understand is Art. So they become great friends. Through Richard’s friendship with Art and other Vietnam vets he relates to, Richard sees that these essentially good people are being treated terribly because of their disabilities. His calling comes in the form of a career where Richard gets people with disabilites jobs. The movie takes place in the 70’s and 80’s before people with disabilities were treated fairly, kindly.

Richard’s work is so groundbreatking that eventually the government asks him to write the first manual for employers on how to hire, train and work with the disabled. As anyone who does groundbreaking work is prone to feel, Richard is insecure about what he has to say. He spends a year writing the manual, and then gives it to Art, someone who has been discriminated against and treated as though he were disgusting, most of his life. When Art reads the manual this is what he says to Richard:

Art’s monologue: "You don’t have a clue how good this is. You know what we cripples want…to be seen. When they look at me, you know what they see? Nothing. I’m ignored. How can you ignore this? But they ignore me because I am so disturbing to their definition of human that I make them feel…What you have created, will make them see us."

Richard’s manual went on to become the first training manual for employers to hire the disabled. And Richard’s work on behalf of those who are not seen and are being discriminated against lead to the American with Disabilities Act being passed in 1990. It is because of this act that we have wheelchair accessibility, wider stalls in bathrooms, legal rights for the disabled, etc.

Rule #2: Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, for all the people you can. We as a church, and you as an individual have the power to go good and increase the quality of people’s lives, ease their suffering, carry their burdens, show them love, help them laugh.

The parable of the Good Samaritan began, “Teacher, how do I inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by saying, love God, love your neighbor and show mercy to all. Then he instructed them saying, “Go and do likewise.” Friends, don’t let excuses prevent you from fulfilling Christ’s command. Go and do likewise.

Wesley's General Rules: Rule #1 - Do No Harm

(Read Matthew 7:1-5 and Mark 12: 28-34)

For the next three Sundays, I thought we’d go back to the basics. A life pleasing and acceptable to God and a life where we feel inner peace and happiness is a life in which we love God, we love ourselves, and we love our neighbors. I like the way the Message translation of the Bible phrases Jesus’ Great Commandment. Jesus says, “That God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and prayer and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself…” (Mark 12: 32-33). This is the way to live!

In the mid-18th century, around 1750, John Wesley thought up some simple instructions to give the early Methodists so they would know how to fulfill Christ’s command to love. They were called the General Rules, and there were 3 of them: Do no harm. Do good. And attend upon the ordinances of God or as a recent commentary on the General Rules puts it, stay in love with God. (We will hear more on the last two rules in the upcoming weeks.) Today, we will seek to understand the first rule: Do no harm.

The recent commentary on Wesley’s General Rules is titled, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, and in it, Author Rueben Job writes this: “The rules are simple and they are easily understood,” but they have far reach. If everyone followed them the world would literally be a different and a new place, a more loving place. But just because the rules are simple and easy to understand does not make them easy to practice. (Job, Rueben. Three Simple Rules. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007. pg. 41).

Doing no harm seems like a pretty obvious way to live. We don’t go about intending to hurt or harm ourselves, others or the creation. We don’t hit the gas when we see a deer in the road. We don’t kick someone when they are down. We don’t pour salt in our own wounds (or do we?). But we need to go beyond the obvious as we seek to follow this first rule because it is in the subtleties, in our ignorance and unawareness when we really become offenders of this rule. To do no harm means that we must be sensitive, aware, knowledgeable and intentional in all that we say and do.

To begin, if we are to love others as much as we love ourselves, then we must begin by loving ourselves well first. Afterall, how can we give love to others that we do not give to ourselves? (Even when you try to love others but don’t love yourself, anything you say or do for those others is contaminated by that lack of love that you have for yourself. )

I’ve been reading this book called A Path With Heart. It says that in order to live with an open and loving heart, the first thing we must do is get in touch with our feelings, and honor those feelings by acknowledging them, feeling them instead of pushing them down, and passing no judgment on them. Like the General Rules, this is simple to hear and easy to understand, but much harder to live out.

Every moment, you are feeling something. Your feelings transpire into thoughts. And your thoughts transpire into actions. The root or cause of what we say and do, how we treat others, comes from how we feel. Thus, it’s important to know how we feel. To know what motivates us to do certain things.

Many of us were taught not to feel though or to deny our feelings. Hasn’t someone said to you, “Don’t get angry,” “Don’t cry”? Or when you were excited or achieved something great: “Calm down,” “Don’t be so smug.” And not only were many of us taught to ignore our feelings, we also pushed them down ourselves because we didn’t like the way they felt. It hurts when your parents yell at you as a kid. It hurts when your best friend tells you they don’t like you anymore. It hurts when you get fired from your job.

So, let’s take a moment, can you feel what you are feeling right now? Are you content to be here? Anxious to leave? Angry about something that happenend yesterday? Excited about something that will happen tomorrow?

The spiritual wisdom of the ages is that to know ourselves, to feel what is actually going on within us, requires presence. You must be here now. Within youself. And once you get a sense of what is going on, there’s no good or bad, right or wrong. There is no judgment. You just are. This just is. Feeling what we feel. Thinking what we think. It’s all ok. You might be hot. A baby might be crying. It’s all ok.

One of the ways to get to know yourself better is to name your experience. Name what is happening to you: Thinking. Feeling. Wanting something or someone. Not wanting something or someone. As your awareness increases, you can get more descriptive. Thinking what? Thinking about work. Feeling how? Feeling restless. Wanting what? Wanting a snickers bar. Not Wanting what? Not wanting to clean the house today.

The point:

As we come to know ourselves, and very importnaly, as we come to accept ourselves as who we are where we are, we move into a higher level of being. One that is sensitive, aware and knowlecable, at least of the self. This is the basic foundation for being able to stop harming ourselves. Simply, but profoundly, by being in touch with what we are experiencing, and not judging it, but simply feeling it, we are on the pathway to freedom and healing. In this way, we begin to stop harming ourselves, and become more able to stop harming others.

It is healing for you to stop condemning yourself, and that healing will help you to stop condemning others. As Matthew, chapter 7 says, “Notice the log in your own eye first.”
Once you have taken a look at yourself and halted your judgmental nature, then you naturally will begin to stop judging others. You will begin to feel the same compassion for them that you feel for yourself. The speck in your neighbor’s eye will cease to be something to condem them for. Instead, the speck will become an opportunity for you to love them with understanding and acceptance as Christ has loved you with understanding and acceptance.

Thomas a Kempis wrote, “We cannot trust ourselves too much, because we often lack grace and understanding. The light within us is small, and we soon let even this burn out for lack of care. Moreover, we often fail to notice how inwardly blind we are; for example, we frequently do wrong, and to make matters worse, we make excuses about it! Sometimes we are moved by passion [reckless emotion] and think it zeal [inspiration]. We condemn small things in others and pass over serious things in ourselves. We are quick enough to feel it when others hurt us—and we even harbor those feelings—but we do not notice how much we hurt others. A person who honestly examines his own behavior would never judge other people harshly” (Job. pg. 30).

I really was touched by the line, “We are quick enough to feel it when others hurt us, but we do not notice how much we hurt others.” That’s why its so important to be aware of what we are feeling, sensitive to what others are feeling, and knowledgeable as to what causes harm. When we know these things, then we can be intentional about doing no harm.

Drop a Pebble in the Water by James W. Foley

Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water: in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them, once you've started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: just a flash and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling, and there's joy acircling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just by dropping one kind word.

What we say and do matters. Even the little stuff. We all know from the 10 commandments that we should not kill, steal, lie, covet,. And following those commands are some of the ways to do no harm. But its our hearts, and knowing our hearts, and taking care of other people’s hearts that’s really going to take us to that next level where we do no harm and we don’t hurt each other anymore.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Trust in the Lord!

(Read Psalm 13 and Mark 5:25-34)

The common theme in today’s Scripture readings is waiting. In Psalm 13, David cries out over and over again, “How long, O Lord? How long must I wait for you to take away the pain in my soul? How long must I wait for you to take away the sorrow in my heart?” I suspect the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years also cried out to God, “How long, O Lord? How long must I go on suffering before you will heal me?”

Waiting for God tests the soul, but it is a universal experience of the faithful. Most likely, we will wait for God to answer us many times throughout our lives. Like the woman in Mark 5, we wait for God to heal us of our infirmity and disease. Like the psalmist, we wait for God to heal our broken hearts and anguished souls. We wait for God to mend broken relationships and ignite new relationships. We wait for God to enter into our earthly situations and alter them so that we have more happiness and peace. We wait for God to rescue us from our trials and tribulations. We wait for God to save us from ourselves. You might consider: what are you waiting for God to do in your life?

St. Augustine (354-430), who is arguably the most influential Christian theologian in the history of Western Christianity, writing over 400 letters, books, and sermons, and serving as a Bishop in an influential part of northern Africa during early Christiandom was waiting for God to change his heart. Before he became a great spiritual leader,
when Augustine was a young man, he was a very successful orator, and he loved the praise and admiration he received from the people. He also loved women and caroused in many illicit affairs.

God’s Spirit was at work in him though because on the one hand, Augustine loved women and praise and debauchery, and on the other hand, he did not feel good about his behavior and he wanted to make God the priority in his life. He wanted to grow in virtue and holiness. He wrote, “My inner self was a house divided against itself.” He went back and forth between, what he called his lower instincts, his attachments to worldly values and unhealthy habits, and his higher instincts, which were to give his heart and life over in the service of God. One of his most famous lines is, “Lord, give me chastity but not yet.”

For years this battle raged within him. He wanted change but he couldn’t do it himself. So, he waited and waited, and prayed and prayed, until one day—the slow work of God brought Augustine to the point where he was ready. In a pivotal moment, Augustine called upon the Lord. In his infamous, spiritual autobiography he wrote, “For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in misery I kept crying, ‘How long shall I go on saying, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

Augustine wept, and then suddenly, after years of prayer and searching and self-examination, God came to him in a very real and clear way. Augustine heard a voice saying repeatedly, “Take it and read, take it and read.” Augustine could have ignored the voice, but in that moment, he decided the voice must be a divine command to open up the book of Scripture and read the first passage on which his eyes should fall. He opened the book up to Romans, and the first passage he saw said, “Not in reveling and drunkennes, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites.”

The Living Word came to Augustine just as he needed it to, and in that decisive moment, the transforming power of God entered in. Augustine wrote, “I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” He said to Jesus, “You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith.”

Ah, what a life-transforming moment, a moment we all wait for. Whether it is our hearts or our wills, our bodies or our souls, our relationships or our life circumstances, we all wait for a moment like this one when God moves powerfully and affectively in our lives. Like Augustine, we wait for God, and like Augustine, God will answer our cries, our prayers.

If you are in a time of waiting, then trust and strength are the spiritual resources you need to endure. Trust will prevent your from growing morose, feeling defeated, feeling like God has abandoned you. The Lord will come through for you. “Thus says the Lord: Blessed are those who trust in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes and its leaves shall stay green. In the year of drought it is not anxious and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8). When you trust in God, you can go through dry periods and be okay.

Strength will help you confront and go through whatever it is you need to go through until your situation is resolved. This morning, as you partake of the bread and the wine, remember that Jesus Christ is mysteriously present in these elements, and that he is your strength and nourishment throughout your journey.

There is a poem by a famous Jesuit monk named Pierre Teilhard De Chardin that commends us to trust as we wait for God’s wisdom and power to transform, heal and redeem our lives. It reads:

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
That it is made by passing though
Some stages of instability
And that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you:
Your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
As though you could be today what time
Will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
Gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

The last thing I’d like to say is that, eventually, the waiting will come to an end. One day, God did answer David. David testified by saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6). One day, God did heal the woman who bled for 12 years. Jesus said, “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well.” One day, God did transform Augustine from the inside out. And one day, maybe even today, God will redeem you in the way you need to be redeemed. Trust in the Lord for he is our salvation!