Monthly Archives: September 2011

Changing our minds for Jesus

Today we heard my very favorite kind of story: a story about a guy who changes his mind. As I had occasion to say a few months ago, I’m a huge fan of that great Dorothy Parker quote—I think it’s Dorothy Parker: If you can’t change your mind, are you sure you still have one?

Today’s gospel begins and ends with changing minds.

There was a man who had two sons. We know a great story is coming, right? We’ve heard this before: it’s a scriptural archetype. We meet men (and women) with two sons—and daughters—throughout the bible. In each of these stories we have a chance to ask ourselves whom we identify with. Are we vindictive like Cain, or innocent like Abel? Are we more like Jacob, the beloved trickster son, or more like Esau, hard-working but full of disappointment? Am I Rachel, who causes all kinds of trouble, or am I more like Leah, cross-eyed, loving, and faithful? Am I the squandering prodigal son begging for forgiveness, or am I the older son who has been good all my life? Are you a task-oriented Martha or a contemplative Mary?

And with today’s story: are we more like the one who says I’m in!, and then isn’t? Or are we the ones who say I can’t or I won’t do something, and then do it after all?

Some of us may have an easier time putting other people into this story than ourselves. I don’t need to have two sons to map this story into our family. Sometimes our teenager is the first son; sometimes he’s the second. Most often, he’s like the first son, whose words say “no” and whose actions say “yes.”

As we put ourselves into the story we just heard, we might realize that the primary relationship in this parable is not between the two brothers, or even between father and son. The primary relationship is an inside job: the relationship between each son and himself. The story leaves us with some questions. Did the second son intend to go work in the vineyard and then change his mind? Or did he never intend to go? Was he lying to his father all along? Were his original intentions good or bad? And in the case of the first son, what caused his change of mind?

I have always wanted to preach a sermon on that great evangelical message made famous by the country western singer Randy Travis, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I thought this parable might give me an occasion to do just that. However, the fact that we don’t know whether the original intentions of the first son—the one who actually goes into the field to work—were good or bad tells us that in some cases, intentions are beside the point. Almost everyone has good intentions. It is ultimately our actions that matter.

* * *

Jesus preaches this parable to religious leaders who probably showed up to hear John the Baptist before Jesus came on the scene, and perhaps were even baptized by John. But a funny thing happened to these faithful followers on the way to Jesus: they got lost. Or distracted. Or stuck on something other than the kingdom of God. Like the second son, they didn’t follow through, and didn’t follow the One John came to proclaim. Today’s parable is an invitation to them, and to us, to walk the talk.

There’s a wonderful story by David Griebner, which I know some of you have read, called the Carpenter and the Unbuilder. Here’s the Cliff notes version:

There was a man who received a dinner invitation from his king. This was the invitation of a lifetime. A huge deal and he knew it. With a lot of care and deliberation, he packed everything he needed for the multi-day slog to the king’s palace. He was a carpenter, and brought with him some tools of the trade so that he could build himself a rough shelter each night along the way. The story goes into great suspense-filled detail, but I’ll just tell you what happens: he gets completely derailed from his destination by the beautiful house he builds for himself along the way. At several points he is reminded of his journey, and his excitement about dinner with the king, and he moves on. But always he stops and builds himself another house and moves in, sometimes for years.

This is who Jesus preaches about in today’s gospel: people who begin the journey into the kingdom of God and get distracted. The gospel is not about good son/bad son, but about people who fix their hearts on the kingdom of God and people who lose their way.

Ironically, Jesus tells us, it is the people whom polite society might think have lost their way— prostitutes and tax gatherers—who do not get stuck on their way to the kingdom.  Those who are willing to change their minds for Jesus are included in the Kingdom. Truly I tell you, Jesus says to his audience (and the audience was probably made up of real people who have said they’re in, when they’re not), the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. And so tax collectors and prostitutes are added to the list of folks we have heard about for the past several Sundays, who are included into the kingdom: debtors, laborers of all kinds, late arrivals and people who never knew they were called to be servants of God.

The invitation to the kingdom of God is for all of us, even those who need to change our mind to accept the invitation. There is a lovely invitation to communion used in the Iona community, in Scotland, which includes these words:

So come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often, and you who have not been for a long time, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

This is our altar call, our invitation to this altar, and an invitation to go work in the field of the kingdom. Our altar call is the invitation to join Jesus, right now, today, in proclaiming a new world order, where justice, inclusion, healing, and grace are the laws of the land. The invitation, the proclamation, the journey—they are right now, and they are forever.

Take this Bread

Our Wednesday night group, unofficially called “the Gratitude Project” and open to all, just started reading Take this Bread by Sara Miles. Here are their reflections from the first conversation.

Today we spoke about our own journeys to church, many with similarly unconventional paths. There was comfort knowing that Sara Miles came to the Episcopal Church in an unconventional way as well. Miles posed the questions “Why would any thinking person become a Christian?” in her prologue. This sparked considerable dialogue about the Christian path not being an easy one, in fact sometimes the opposite! However someone pointed out that calm and sanity might exist without being comfortable.

It is armed with this food for thought (pun intended) that we look forward to next week when we will be discussing Miles’ journey in chapters 1-5. Thanks so much to everyone this week for wonderful community and thoughtful conversation. Here’s hoping that more may join us next time!

The Gratitude Project meets on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm in the Grace Room, following the 6 pm Peace Mass in the chapel, through early December.

Confounding our expectations

Many thanks to the Rev. P. Joshua Griffin for this sermon for Sunday, September 18.

This morning in our readings from Jonah and Matthew we have two stories of expectation overturned.  In the gospel text, the vineyard workers who have worked all day long laboring in difficult conditions, are utterly shocked, confounded, and dismayed that those who came late, those who hadn’t put in their full day, hadn’t paid their dues, hadn’t really earned their keep, were going to take home the same wage they did. What an injustice!  But as Jesus illustrates, this is precisely what the kingdom of God is all about.  As the landowner says to the indignant workers: none of this belongs to you, you have no claim, it’s all mine.  The metaphor is meant to teach us that the world is God’s, that all there is and all that we have is gift, and anything which we have the illusion of possessing, is really passing through our fingers for but a brief moment.

Now this story should shock us. Not because the workers are all treated the same regardless of the hours worked, but rather because this image of the kingdom of God is so far form what our world resembles.  This parable shocks us because we’ve all gotten used to a world in which the first get further ahead, and the last fall further behind.  We have laws and systems in place that ensure such things, and a public discourse controlled by those who benefit from the status quo.  We take this for granted as normal, and it’s gotten so that we don’t expect anything otherwise.  The ethical, economic, and political lessons of this story are so blatantly obvious that I’m not even going to go into them.  What I want to reflect on instead is our own spiritual, emotional, and psychological response to confounded expectations. To the ways of God, which turn the norms of this world completely upside down.

I want to turn to the story of Jonah. Now you know the story of Jonah.  He is a Jewish man, called by God, called to go to Nineveh and preach judgment and destruction to the wicked city.  Now, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, which was an archetypal enemy, a colonial threat to Jonah’s people.  And unlike Moses, who was called by God to go to Pharaoh with a concrete demand, saying, “Pharaoh, let my people go, let us be free,” Jonah had the somewhat more daunting task of going to Nineveh and simply “crying out against it,” of not making a specific request of Nineveh, but pronouncing God’s blanket judgment on the wicked city.

So Jonah does what any half rational human being would do in this situation—he runs away, he gets the heck out of dodge. He goes down to the docks and gets the first boat to Tarshish, because Tarshish, everybody knows, is where you go when you are trying to escape from God.  Well, of course you all know what happens, God sends a great tempest, a storm that threatens to break up the entire boat.  The sailors determine that this storm has something to do with Jonah, and it soon becomes clear to everyone on board that God has sent the storm because Jonah was fleeing God’s call.  So the sailors scoop up Jonah and they throw him overboard into the raging sea.

The storm is calm, and the boat is safe, but Jonah, floating in the sea, is swallowed by a gigantic fish—he goes into the belly, the deepest darkness of the fish, and after enduring a great transformation, returns empowered and changed, ready to heed God’s call.  So when God calls him again, after he has gone through this horrible darkness, this desert experience in the belly of the fish, he responds, he goes to Nineveh and he does what God has called him to do, proclaiming “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  But the most unexpected thing happens—the people of Nineveh repent, turn from their ways, and they follow the God of Israel. God calls off the threat, the vengeance, his anger—the text says God literally “changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it.”

Well this is all very good for the Ninevites, but along the way, Jonah’s gotten attached to a certain result.  I mean, he’s staked his entire reputation as a prophet, his very word, on making this proclamation of calamity, of destruction.  But the people repent, and God doesn’t follow through.  Jonah is beside himself— I didn’t risk my life to make this prophecy only to have you change your mind!  What a betrayal.  Jonah is so angry and disappointed, so upset that he could just die.  He goes out, outside the city, and some scholars speculate he went where he could look down on the city, still expecting that in the end, the Ninevites wouldn’t be able to keep up the act, that in the end Nineveh would be destroyed.

So this is the context for our reading today, this brief encounter where Jonah is waiting outside the city, and the sun is beating down.  He tries to make some kind of shelter to protect himself from the harsh climate, but for whatever reason it’s inadequate.  The sun is really getting to Jonah, so God sends this shade plant to bring Jonah relief.   God brings his mercy to bear on Jonah—just as he has done for Nineveh.

But in the morning God sends a worm to devour the plant, God sends a sultry wind and the sun begins to beat down, and Jonah is once again exposed to the elements, and he begins to sweat, and he becomes angry, “what happened, how could this happen, how could you do this to me?” And God says, “Don’t you understand, my logic is not your logic. You only had shade because I gave it to you in the first place. Don’t you know that I am a gracious, merciful God, should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city?“ So God uses the plant as a means of demonstrating his grace and mercy—and as a tough love means of teaching Jonah gratitude.

Gratitude, a perspective whereby you see the world for the gift that it is.  When you hold the posture of gratitude and something passes out of your hand, you don’t mourn it, you’re not attached to it. Your sense of possession, protection, guarding, keeping, is mere illusion.  This is part of what the Buddhists call “impermanence.” Coming to terms with this, impermanence, is not only a central theme of Buddhism, but it is one of the great elements of the Christian spiritual journey.  The Christian journey is the work of coming to understand that all life is gift, all that we have is gift, the air that we breathe is a gift, the water we drink is a gift, the trees are gift, (I know I just recently moved to Portland, and its going to be a long winter, but even the clouds are gift)—this is why we speak of the world as having been created by God, and given to us.

We too have been created by God and given to each other.  All has been created by God, that all might flourish in mutuality and symbiosis.  And yet we measure, we divide, we calculate, we figure out how to get ahead, we build systems which reward certain people over other people, entire nations over other nations.  But the Christian path is otherwise.  The Christian journey is a serious ethical practice—a way of being concretely in the world.  When we respond to gift, to grace, we cannot help but to work for a world that resembles the parable—where all are provided for by the source that possesses all.  To live in this countercultural way requires serious disciplined practice—which is why we model God’s economy each week around the Eucharistic table.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be with you, to serve among you at St. David’s, I was drawn to this parish because of all of the ways you are working to build the Kingdom here in Southeast Portland.  An incomplete survey of the partnerships you’ve developed shows that you are supporting the arts—creativity, beauty, and bliss—those qualities which cannot be easily commodified, and are so undervalued in our society.  You offer safe-haven to the visionaries at City Repair, and a kitchen for the saints of Food Not Bombs.  You are transforming waste into jewelry, and providing economic opportunities, through upstARTpdx.

Most importantly you are building the structures of community, both within and outside these walls.  I am amazed by the story of this parish, the way you have blossomed in recent years.  It is a privilege to be among you—and I look forward to seeing where you will go, what expectations will be overturned, how God will use you to build the Kingdom, to create a world where, the last shall become the first, and today’s first take delight in being the last.

Amen.

A reflection on the Holy Cross

Holy Cross Day

Galatians 6:14-18
John 12:31-36a

Have you ever noticed a shrine on the side of the road? They often begin with a framed photo, a candle and a bunch of flowers. Some become quite elaborate and some last for many, many years. The thing about them is, no one really knows who started it, no one really knows who set out that first candle. And it isn’t any particular persons job to start a shrine, or maintain it.

There are many memories that our cluttered mind needs an external reminder for. Too often, important, life changing memories are crowded out by grocery lists and appointment reminders. “I will never forget,” has a way of losing its urgency in the life lived. Some things are good to remember for a time, and to let slowly fade away. There is a gift in the way our minds can lose the urgency, sometimes captured in the phrase “time heals all wounds.”

But what about the cross? On the one hand, it is very natural for us to shy away from the trauma of the crucifixion. On the other, the resurrection doesn’t really make sense without it. This rather horrible, yet miraculous story is our good news. It is our never forget. It is the sort of thing that we build shrines to.

Constantine and his mother Helena certainly did. In 335, they dedicated several buildings that Eusebius describes as being “on a scale of imperial magnificence” at Calvary, to mark the place of the crucifixion and resurrection. In the way of shrines, this one is no longer standing and has been replaced. In its place now stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I wonder if our shrines need to be buildings? I wonder how we might maintain an external reminder, a sharable reminder, of the memory of the cross without creating a shrine, which sometimes becomes a tomb.

How do we live out our lives as shrines, as sharable memory? How are our jobs, be they within or without the church, paid or unpaid, a sharing of the memory of the cross and the resurrection?

How many times?

Father forgive us for what we must do;
You’ll forgive us and we’ll forgive you.
We’ll forgive each other till we both turn blue
And we’ll whistle and go fishing in heaven
.

That’s John Prine. Just for something different.

“Free wine on Sundays.” “All of the pageantry; none of the guilt.” “You don’t have to check your brains at the door.” Some of you may recognize these statements from Robin Williams’ “Top ten reasons to be an Episcopalian.” Another oft-quoted truism about churches like ours is that “Episcopalians generally believe they are the only people God trusts enough to take summers off.” Our summer attendance this year has been quite wonderful, but I love this great energetic, homecoming feeling the Sunday after Labor Day. Lots of churches celebrate this Sunday as “Welcome Back Sunday” or “Get-on-Board Sunday” or “Start-up Sunday.”

I want to say “welcome back” to all of you, even if you were here all summer long, even if you were here just last Sunday.

Welcome back to forgiveness. We heard about forgiveness between the lines last Sunday in Paul’s words about love, and in Jesus’ teaching about life in community. And we heard about forgiveness loud and clear in our readings this morning. I hope some of you who were here last week began thinking about forgiveness as the work of being a follower of Jesus. I trust many of you have thought about forgiveness this week as our country—and particularly the media—commemorates the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. For many self-proclaimed Christians, these events challenged—maybe even erased—Jesus’ call to forgive our enemies.

Today is one of those days in history where probably everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing ten years ago. I was in New York, 2.6 miles from the towers. It was the first clear, crisp, sunny day in weeks. I had just dropped Nathan off at preschool, and was heading through the seminary gates when someone told me what had happened. My experience over the next hours and days and weeks was as complex and surreal as anyone else’s. The gift of the experience has been the clarity, for me, of what it means to follow Jesus. Living within smelling distance of Ground Zero taught me more than I’d known before about forgiveness and about the capacity of the human spirit for resilience and generosity.

But this Sunday is not about my 9/11 story, or yours, or our nation’s.

This Sunday is about following Jesus. Today’s gospel reads as though it were hand-picked for those who are reminded, by events in the world or in our own lives, of how hard forgiveness can be. Peter asked Jesus: Lord, if someone sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? We all know the answer, even if we don’t like it. Jesus says to Peter: Not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Other versions of the story say seventy times seven.

Anyone who has ever been forgiven by someone they’ve hurt knows how freeing it can be. Even more freeing is the experience of forgiving someone else.

Early in my ministry I visited with a couple who had been members for many decades of the church I served. They told me the heart-breaking story about the murder of their first-born son a dozen years earlier. Then they told me about their son’s murderer. “We pray for him every day” said the woman. “We forgave him a long time ago,” said her husband matter-of-factly. “How could I live with myself otherwise?” the wife chimed in. “I miss my son every day. That’s enough. Holding onto that other stuff doesn’t make it any better.”

* * *

Recently I came across this parable from the tradition of the Cherokee:

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, sorrow, regret, greed, resentment, and jealousy. The other wolf stands for peace, love, hope, forgiveness, humility, kindness, truth and compassion.

The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied: “The one I feed.”

* * *

            Feeding peace, kindness, compassion, generosity, humility, and all that good stuff, and starving our resentments, our anger, our jealousy—this is the work of being a Christian. It is the work of discipleship that Jesus taught his whole life.

The former radio announcer for the Portland Trailblazers, Bill Schonley, used to say, “No one ever said it was going to be easy.”

I often describe church as a training ground for disciples, a training ground for life in the kingdom. If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? Does this mean that we don’t owe forgiveness to people outside the church? By no means! On the contrary, it is in the church that we get to practice being followers of Jesus everywhere. It may be hard for some of you to imagine the person in the pew next to you giving you all sorts of opportunities for forgiveness and humility, but it could happen.

There’s a huge campaign on right now called “I will: the 9/11 tribute movement.” You’ve probably seen the billboards and the television ads. A banner asks: “What will you do? What will you do on 9/11 in tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11?” The responses are things like “I will never forget the people who gave their lives.” Or “I will always remember to tell my kids I love them before I leave the house in the morning.” Or “I will be especially kind to everyone all day long.” Or “I will donate to the Red Cross.” These are all worthy tributes. What struck me in looking at the website is that no one posted anything about trying to forgive. The ads all end: “What will you do this September 11th?”

What will you do? I have a suggestion. On this “Welcome back, Start-up, Get-on-board Sunday,” let us all get on board with radical discipleship, and join in living out the teachings of Jesus, forgiving our enemies every day, not just today, seventy times seven. It is how we treat those with whom we struggle most that marks us as followers of Jesus, as redeemed and resurrected people, this day and every day.

As we gather around this table, remember that what we share is a feast of forgiveness, a sampling of the kingdom banquet where all forgiven, and where all are always welcome and welcomed back. Let us celebrate, and go forth from this place proclaiming the great love of a forgiven people.

Ellie Naud

Coming to peace mass tonight? Why not – it’s a beautiful mid-week treat sharing of lessons, songs, and bread. Still not sure if you can clear that 6-6:35 block on your calendar tonight? Let’s see if these words about today’s Saint, Elie Naud, that Heather Lee has prepared can convince you.

Daniel 6:10b–16,19–23

Psalm 30

James 1:2–4,12a

Matthew 15:21–28

The gospel reading for today is most notable for its insults. This woman comes bursting onto the scene demanding healing for her daughter. Jesus does what I consider his most amazing miracle, he thinks before he speaks, but the disciples immediately decide that shouting lacks the proper respect due to a Messiah. Then Jesus and the woman exchange this bit of dialogue.

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he says.

“Lord, help me,” she pleads, on her knees.

“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” he says.

“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

“Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

It isn’t the dialogue itself that interests me in this exchange; it is the clever wordplay that they engage in, the quick comeback worthy of a 1940’s comedy. This is a way of communicating that we hardly ever engage in at church. To be a good Christian is often to engage in a very particular set of manners that most of us would sum up under the word, ‘polite.’ It is often about letting people meet us where we are rather than going out and meeting them where they are. It’s almost never about clever comebacks and witty repartee. It certainly doesn’t dish insult for insult.

Jesus and this woman aren’t being very polite to each other; they aren’t engaging in the proper exchanges expected by the disciples or us. But they are definitely in relationship, they are definitely communicating.

Elie Naud, our saint of the day, was definitely in the business of relationships that meet people where they are. Elie, a French Huguenot, fled persecution and ended up at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York. He never let what was considered right or proper get in the way of the Gospel. He became an Anglican catechist to black slaves and Native Americans, eventually founding a school for the children of slaves and Native Americans.

I wonder, when we engage with people outside our social groupings, when we encounter people who are perhaps defensive from the start about our Christian identity, do we stay in relationship, do we communicate, even if it doesn’t sound like “good Christian behavior.” I wonder, when someone needs our help, and doesn’t expect us to give it, do we back away from the forcefulness of their defenses or do we give it right back, with love.

 

See you tonight and every Wednesday for Peace Mass from 6 – 6:35 in the Chapel.

Morning People

The night is far gone, the day is near.

I’m definitely a morning person. My best days begin around 5:30 am, and by two or three pretty much all I can do is sit around and talk with people. Luckily for me, a lot of my job involves sitting and talking with people. For other tasks, I admit that at a certain point in the afternoon I often turn into Scarlet O’Hara. “I just can’t think about this today; I’ll think about it tomorrow.” (Have you ever noticed how no one ever says “I’ll think about it tomorrow” in the morning?)

There are certain days when everyone is a morning person, like when a long-anticipated day arrives, like moving day, or graduation day, or a wedding day. I remember when Mark and I traveled to Europe together in 1995 for three weeks. One of Mark’s favorite things is planning trips, and he was in trip-planning heaven for months and months and months planning this particular trip. From a distance, he’d developed personal relationships with owners of bed and breakfasts, railway ticket agents, and tour guides. Then, the day came and the alarm went off and we were on our way. We didn’t have to get up any earlier than usual, but I remember this joyful feeling of today being different from every other day, the knowledge that “today’s the day.”

I would like to suggest that in the Kingdom of God—the kingdom that Paul proclaims more fully and succinctly in today’s reading than possibly anywhere else in his writing—that “this is the day!” feeling should be the way we go about our whole lives.

In the Kingdom of God, we are all morning people. (I wish I’d made that up, but I didn’t. Several good preachers from widely divergent perspectives have said it before me.)

Paul could be talking to any of us, with his sense of urgency, not about preparing for the end times or the last judgment, but urgency about what it means to be Christian, morning, noon, and night, any day, any time.

Paul is saying “Wake up!!!”  As in, grab a clue.

Wake up and hear the good news. Wake up and live like someone who has nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of. Wake up and remember what it means to be a follower of the prince of peace. Wake up and love your neighbor.

The earliest Christians attracted converts, not because they built beautiful churches or had great Sunday school or really affirming sermons or even great coffee. The earliest Christians attracted converts because of how they lived their lives. The earliest Christians attracted converts because of the way they treated one another.

There’s a tiny hard-to-get book called “Worship and Evangelism in Pre-Christendom.” The title is an ironic one, because in pre-Christendom, that is, the early days of Christianity before it became the state religion of choice, there really wasn’t anything we would call worship or evangelism. Christians gathered, and others wanted what they had. What they saw, which was remarkable and different from any other religious practice, was the way these early Christians loved one another, and the way they understood their relationship with their God to be inextricably linked to their relationship with their neighbor.

Practicing forgiveness and loving one another the way they believe Jesus loved his friends and disciples was the crux of proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Paul uses the metaphor of night and day, of sleeping and waking, to talk about this hard work of community life. Salvation is nearer to us than when we first became believers, not because the end-times are approaching but because we are past the honeymoon stage of faith and deeper into this hard work of being a community of faith.

Wait! you might be thinking…It shouldn’t be “work” to go to church! I work hard all week. I’ve got all kinds of stress in my life. My family life is hard enough. Church is where I come to feel good. Don’t tell me I have to work at being a Christian! (I’ve had people say this to me.)

And yet if we, as a church, are being faithful to our own call to follow Jesus, and being our most authentic human selves, it is inevitable that we will from time to time mess up. Being a Christian community “in the biblical sense” is being the place where we go to any lengths to engage with our neighbors, to face each other when we have hurt each other, to stick with honesty and love through thick and thin, night and day. This is how we enter the kingdom and how we invite others to it, right now, this morning.

To set aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light is to pay attention, be fully conscious, to make a decision every moment to live honorably, and to love our neighbor. To set aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light means to set aside quarreling, jealousy, and all other behavior that distract us from the work the kingdom of God which we proclaim. To put on the armor of light is to live as morning people, fully awake to the world around us and to our own place in it. To put on the armor of light is to embrace a sense of urgency about all of our relationships: where have I been wrong? Where did I stretch the truth? Where was I less than generous in my dealings? Where, today, right now, can I put things to rights? This is work. There is work to being a follower of Jesus. But I would like to suggest, on this Labor Day weekend, that this work is a labor of love.

You know what time it is. It is now the moment to wake from sleep! The night is far gone, the day is near. It’s a good thing that in the Kingdom of God we are all morning people.