Last week the Presbyterian Church, USA, of which I am a member, did two things of note. First, it gave me and my colleagues, permission to perform same gender weddings. I would have done them anyway if I’d been asked, but it’s nice to know that now I won’t be tried for heresy or whatever if I do.
The second thing we did, (and God how I wish I didn’t have to say “we” in this context), was vote (303 to 310) to join the divestment campaign against Israel. To quote the Jerusalem Post: “The Presbyterian Church made the decision [to join the campaign] with the vote to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions due to what the church said are business dealings with settlements in the West Bank. ‘We as a church cannot profit from the destruction of homes and lives,’ said Reverend Gradye Parsons in a statement about the decision at its meeting in Detroit. ‘We continue to invest in many businesses involved in peaceful pursuits in Israel.’
I am more than a little sorry, and I am most certainly ashamed that we did this. Here is my reason: after century, upon century, upon century of persecution suffered by the Jewish people at the hands of ostensibly Christian people – and without having made substantive confession of that horrifying corporate sin, (a sin that, if such things can be quantified, dwarfs what Israel stands accused of at this moment in history) – after that, we have no moral standing, no ground from which to say anything to Israel about what they should or should not do in the West Bank. We all respond to the world around us from our own perspective, our own sense of meaning, our own history. Israel is no different. But since Christians have played no small part in the formation of their perspective, we have neither clear eyes to see nor a clear heart from which speak.
With this in mind I make several observations:
1. I told my congregation how I felt about the church’s two actions during worship this morning. By the time services were over I had received a (very reasonable) e-mail from an Elder in my congregation. She says, among other things I’ll discuss later in the post, “I know because you’ve mentioned it many times, how very important your Jewish friends are to you and how much you want to be on their side.” By way of disclosure I have indeed mentioned how important my Jewish friends are to me. I’m playing a significant role in the raising of, (an incredibly wonderful), Jewish boy, my surrogate grandson, who calls me “Saba,” (Hebrew of Grandpa). I love him and his parents dearly; it is true. But at no point today, or in this post, did I suggest that I am “on their side” concerning this issue. I have not said that I am “pro-Israel,” neither have I carved out a position that is “pro-Palestinian.” I am saying that Christians have no moral standing to speak on the issue – at least not until we have confessed our corporate sin against the Jewish people.
2. Suppose we were to do such a thing? Suppose we were to confess that sin and then speak as our heart calls us to do? I do not know whether we would have taken the same action or not last week, but I do know that we would have communicated our perspective very differently. We would not carve out a position morally superior to “those who destroy homes and lives.” I know those that support divestiture do not believe that America is “sinless” in its foreign policy. I know that they do not believe themselves to be, in point of fact, morally superior to Israel or anyone else for that matter. (We’re all good Calvinists after all.) But the action we took last week did not speak with that in mind. We did not speak with an awareness of our own culpability in this situation, our own guilt in creating this set of perspectives.
3. My church Elder went on to make a good point saying, “YOU may very well know exactly where you stand, but I would like (and I hope) that the FPCSR community will take the time to learn, discuss, and discern, and I hope you will help guide in the process.” She wisely adds, “I think that part of the problem with the Israeli-Palestinian issue is automatically taking sides, committing without education, discussion, and discernment.” I agree; we do better to study an issue before commenting. The Elder suggests two classes, one from a somewhat pro-Palestinian point of view and the other from a somewhat pro-Israel point of view. I don’t know if I’ll have time to organize and lead such a class before I go on sabbatical, (though I’m open to after sabbatical). In principle though I’d be happy to guide such a process as long as we start and finish with a class concerning our own actions in regard to the Jewish people lo these last 2000 years, and let that inform our discussion as well.
4. I note that as a denomination we say we “don’t want to profit from the destruction of homes and lives” and yet there is no call in the overture to scrutinize all of our investments to see if any company in which we hold stock is participating in the “destruction of homes and lives.” If that had been the overture, I’d feel much differently about it.
5. The vote was 303-310 in favor of divestiture. I would simply ask if the church should be taking such a provocative and public stand by such a slim margin.
6. Which leads me to my last observation, the PCUSA is, as the Jerusalem Post pointed out, one of the largest mainline Christian denominations in the U.S., but that’s not saying much. We are dwindling, and I mean fast. We are now less than half the size we were 25 years ago. That to say, I’m actually surprised that what we did last week made it into the papers at all. I’m surprised and discouraged that this statement, a statement made with a vote of 303-310, is what caught the public eye and defined “Presbyterian” for them. Those who take a pro-divestiture stance would say that this is a good thing; it identifies us with justice. I get that, really I do. I have an enormous amount of respect for some who are articulate leaders in the move to divest. But even that is not the heart of what we believe. It’s a consequence of what we believe to be sure, but our passion for justice stems from our beliefs about the nature of God. We are people who long to be in relationship to a God literally defined by “love,” and we know that as relationship, or call it connection, to God’s love forms us, it overflows into the world, moving us to act with love for all. Somehow that’s gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s who we are and we seem to be losing that. That worries me a great deal.
I’ve attached a link to a sermon I preached last year entitled, “Confessing our Corporate Sin Against the Jews.”

Thanks for listening to a pastor with deep reservations about what his church has done.

Grace and peace,

Rev. Samuel G. Alexander

Death at the Movies: Hollywood’s Guide to the Hereafter

Death at the Movies: Hollywood’s Guide to the Hereafter
By Lyn and Tom Davis Genelli
I loved this book. In fact it inspired me to write another one like it. They say people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying, so I’d like to write about Hollywood movies that deal with that demon, anxiety, that gets in your head as you prepare for a major public address. I know, there aren’t many movies like that, but there should be, if for no other reason than so I can write that book. I’m onto something here.
Can you imagine a movie dealing with let’s say, Sarah Palin’s internal struggles in the run up to her Vice Presidential nominee acceptance speech. It would begin with the struggle she had to remain Sarah Palin. We’d see her trying to change just enough to “look vice-presidential,” (generally not a terribly high bar), while still appealing to her favorite guy, Joe Six-Pack, (a higher, or is it a lower, bar to reach).
There could be a dream sequence. Sarah and the ghost of Herbert Hoover, sitting on top of Mt. Rushmore, as he shows her the gaping cracks in the foundation of her speech. “No one expects us all to agree on everything,” she said. “But we are expected to govern with integrity, and good will, and clear convictions, and a servant’s heart. And I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as Vice President of the United States.” You just know she’d wake up in a cold sweat. (The director could even have fun figuring out just how clingy and see-through the night-gown could be without drawing the dreaded “R” rating.)
Or how about a movie leading up to Michael Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech. We’d hear the pounding of drums on the way to war in Iraq.
There would be White House scenes, (using the West Wing set of course), that show Bush and his cadre of war mongers trying to figure out how to fool the American people, (not very difficult to do), and go to war.
Michael could give his famous speech, “I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to — they are here — they are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President.”
Then right when you think there is no internal struggle, Michael stepping off stage, is attacked, his life flashes before his eyes and we get to see the very day, the very moment, he figured out that you should never let facts get in the way of a good story.
But would any of them change? If so, it would be rare, because change is rare. We’d probbly need fictional characters to show us real transformation, just like in the movies about death. They are written first to entertain, and that’s just fine, but they also move us to consider what our life means. That’s what all these reflections on the after life are about, right? They are statements about what this life means, or at least could mean. From Topper, to Ghost, to Sixth Sense, they’re trying to open our eyes, just a bit, to a fresh context of meaning so we can change.
Death at the Movies does a good job of clarifying the context of meaning each film offers. But I keep wondering, “Can such imaginative explorations of life, death, fear and creation bring us to that elusive moment of growth, to the developmental change on which the future rides?” I don’t know, change is pretty rare; but if this doesn’t do it, we could always try some movies about public speaking. . . . no, that wouldn’t work either. The only thing that can change us, is us.

Why a Woman and a Girl?

Legion–Symptoms of an Ailing Society

On the Sea

Is Our Faith Enough?

Christ as Healer

The following sermon was preached on June 30. It is about faith and healing. It is a sermon both for those who did not have the prayer “answered” and for those who do. In it I talk about my brother in law who was healed from Leukemia a year earlier. The next night he became quite sick. We have found out that the Leukemia has returned. Still, what I have to say about faith stands. The presence of the one who can only love us has been palpable al week long. We do not know the outcome, but we do know the love of God.

Christ as Healer (Audio – right click to download)

ChantFest San Rafael May 2013

Alleluia – Opening and Closing Chant


Dance and Sing


Romans XII–Process and Trinity

Romans XII–Process and Trinity (Audio Right Click for Download)

Text of scripture this morning is from Romans Chapter 13, verses 11-14. We’re nearing the end. There are only fifteen chapters in Romans, and the fifteenth chapter is sort of a name dropping thing. he just wants to send greetings to this person, that person and the other person and let them know he’s well connected. The translators placed the heading on this text “an urgent appeal.”  Would you listen as the spirit of God brings a word to you.
You know what time it is. How it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep for salvation is nearer to us know than when we first became believers. The night is far gone and the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Salvation is nearer now than when we first came to believe. The night is far gone. The day is coming near.
It’s been two thousand years since he wrote that. I think we can all admit right now, he was wrong. He expected the end of history to come within his generation. He expected God to bring everything to a perfect close. It’s been two thousand years. He was wrong. I think he was right about quite a few other things. But he was wrong about time, even his understanding of time, I suspect. He had a deep and profound intuition about the nature of salvation and its relationship to the way we act. But time?
Now this passage brings up some questions about time and they happen to be questions that are talked about quite a bit in the great debate or conversation that continues to go on regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. Today is Trinity Sunday, a day to reflect on this doctrine, this idea that we know God in three ways, as father, son, holy spirit, but that each one of those is the entirety of God. I recognize that it doesn’t make any sense. But any definition of God that made sense couldn’t possibly be true, because I think we can all agree throughout the centuries and millennia that God does remain a mystery. So this doctrine of the Trinity has been pointing at this mystery for two thousand years.
They had the same kind of experiences that we do in the present, the same sorts of things were impacting on them, though they lived in a world that asked entirely different sets of questions. I mean, if we don’t think there is a father up there who had a son, well then whether or not they were of the same substance matters little to us. And so the way this doctrine of the Trinity as it’s been formulated, isn’t all that important to us. And yet it seems to poke at a mystery that has always been within us. Because those ancients, just as we do, have a deep sense that we do relate to God in different ways, that there are different approaches, and yet it seems like the same God. And so it is that we scratch at it, move with it. And of late the questions about the Trinity seem to move towards this question of time, over whether or not the scriptures really understood time or whether it was just part of their world view.
Because what they understood about God, this classical Trinity, is this one God in three persons, all of which were co-equal and co-eternal, because of that, all existed in some perfect space or location, all on their own, without regard to creation at all. The immutable, permanent reflection of God, this God that cannot be touched, cannot be reached, cannot ever be understood because it stands unchanging outside creation. And this God created all things it is thought. Created all things, including time. The idea, this perfect God that is outside creation, always forever unchanging, is that this God would have created creation outside the realm of time, and if so then knows exactly what will happen because the future already exists.
It’s already been decided who will be saved and who will not, already been decided who suffers and who does not, already been decided, for the future has already been created. That’s the God that lives outside of time and the Trinity tells a story where this God is only tangentially related to the creation, as though this God kisses us at that very moment where this God becomes incarnate, enfleshed within us and then pours that spirit within us, so that this creation can become complete, that which already exists can become complete. But the truth is the universe is not made up of things. That is, if things are permanent, immutable things, it’s just not true.
We think of the mountains as things that will last forever, and yet we all know that mountains don’t last forever. Think of islands that live in isolated beauty and yet they’re not isolated at all. You go deep enough and they are connected to the whole world. You’re not a thing, at least not a permanent thing. The universe simply is not made up of things that last forever. Instead it is made up of relationships, interconnections among all the matter of the world, readjusting and shifting. The soul isn’t a thing, the heart isn’t a thing, they are relationships one to another. So what does God look like in a world like that. It’s as though God gets God’s own identity from God’s relationship to creation. It’s as though God exists because God is connected to and related within us.
The future does not exist, the future unfolds moment after moment after moment. It’s not been decided whether or not you suffer, there’s not a God out there that made it that way. Instead, this God would unfold within us, would almost evolve with us, because this God is related at the very core to us. How do we know this God of relationship? This God that swirls and understands itself as related in these three ways. We know God as the creator, the one. The I am is the way Jesus referred to it. The last few weeks I’ve been poking at or pointing to an experience of the one where if we sit and take one step back from ourselves and ask ourselves who’s having this experience, who’s sitting here, who’s hearing, who’s tasting. who is touching, there is that something, that true connection, that lays as an observer behind all that, all connected one to another, all living in relationship as one true self, the I Am, related out of connection one to another.
And this I Am expresses itself in unique ways. Each one of you is a unique expression of that I Am, each one of us has the opportunity to live out the love of the I Am, that connects all things and as we do that , we relate one to another, defining one another by our relationships, by our love, by our care, by our actions in the world around us we are relating in an I Thou relationship. This is the second person of the Trinity. I Am and I Thou, a father and a son who becomes incarnate within each and every one of us.
The point was never that Jesus was incarnate the only one, no. Jesus invited us into a union where we became the incarnate presence of the one as well. We look at the whole world, at everything that is unfolding, the whole creation evolves in all ways and what’s driving that? That presence, that one. The one that expresses itself in you and expresses itself in me, exists in all things, connecting all things. This is the spirit, the third person of the Trinity. We see it everywhere we look if we open our eyes wide enough and recognize the presence of God within all things. An I Am, an I Thou and an I It. A first person, a second person and a third person relationship to the divine, each of which in some sense grasps hold of the whole nature of God in a great big dance, a dance which unified us, to the presence of the God whose word brings things into being for it creates the relationships among us.
I know that’s a little heady. Sometimes I think about those things and I’ll preach about them in a sermon like this and some folks say “I don’t get it,” and that’s okay. I don’t either. We’re working with complex ideas. What happens then is over the next few weeks we have a conversation and some of these ideas will unfold over time and we’ll begin to get a sense of how it is they might change the way we live, change the way we love, change the way we know our God.
So what difference does the Trinity make, this God who we know in these ways, this God who has not from a far decided whether or not we suffer, but rather this God who is in the midst of our lives touching us at every moment, enabling us to carry forward and break free from suffering, what difference does it make that we see God that way? The Apostle Paul was pointing at it, that’s for sure. Paul understood the difference between darkness and light and the difference for him was between being connected to the presence of this intimately loving God and living in the darkness unconnected, dead as it were, unable to live in the wholeness and the care of God. All the things he pointed to, and I’m just sorry he didn’t bring up profligacy. That’s my favorite word in the Bible, but he brought up debauchery and licentiousness, you know, drunkenness. What are those things? Those are things we do instead of connecting. Those are the things we do to replace an empty sense and feeling that we do not have the love of one another, or the love of God.
It seems to be as though sex gets an awful lot of play in the Bible. You know, it seems that the Bible might be over-focused on sex, but I think there may be a reason for that. Because the way we use sex is often a replacement for connection, at least the licentiousness and debauchery that Paul is talking about is doing that. We expect our sexuality to fill all the voids and allow all connections to be made. Ask any married couple and they’ll tell you that you’ve got to work at sexuality. In order to have it be something that connects human beings together, you’ve got to work at sexuality. The debauchery, the licentiousness, the easy connections, those are instead, those are the things that break boundaries instead of engaging us in relationships so profoundly untied they have no boundary as we connect one to another. Sex throughout the scriptures is a model for the spiritual – a model or a reflection of what human life is in the darkness when we use sexuality to fill needs it is not there to fulfill.
But it is not always about sex. What do you do instead of connecting to the presence of God, when you feel that empty moment? What do you do instead? Some of us aren’t even aware of the empty moment? I was talking to a friend who said that is what fasting is for. If you fast, you notice, you’re spiritually aware and you notice when you are empty; and when you are empty, you reach for something. There is that moment of emptiness when you have a choice to move into darkness and fill it up with falseness and nothing or move into light by filling it up with the presence of God that is already as close to you as you are to yourself. That is the wonder and the beauty of life in the light; the tragedy of the darkness is we’re disconnected and therefore dead because creation is connection to the presence of God. And the wonder of the light is to wake up and realize that the presence of God is already as close as your very breath, the love of God cannot be escaped because it’s what brings you into being, always becoming, it’s what allows us to connect one to another as part of this enormous beautiful project called creation that becomes each and every day, always out of the heart and the love of God.

Romans XI–Wish He Hadn’t Written This

Romans XI–Wish He Hadn’t Written This  (Audio Right Click to Download)

Let every person–the word is actually soul–let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. And those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority, resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment, for rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain. It is the servant of God to execute wrath upon the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them. Taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:1-8
So this is on my list of passages I wish Paul had never written. I think we’d actually be better off if we didn’t have this passage. It’s right up there with that toss off remark he made at the end of chapter one about being turned over to unnatural lusts, man to man woman for woman. It wasn’t a treatise on homosexuality. My guess is if he’d looked hard enough in his culture, he could have found healthy, good relationships that were same gender couples. But, no, he tossed that thing off and I wish he hadn’t. It’s a little like in Corinthians where he tells the woman that they need to cover their heads in worship. Where are your hats ladies? Not only that, he tells them to keep quiet in worship. Then there is that horrible passage where he suggests that wives should submit of be subject to their husbands. It’s just a series of things that I think it would be better if he hadn’t written, it he hadn’t put them into holy writ.
Of course, at the time he had no idea he was writing holy writ. It’s done a lot of damage. Most of the reason for that is that people take things in scripture and they remove them out of context and they make a big deal about them. They use them for their own purposes. And so it is that rulers for century upon century upon century have been reading this passage. “Don’t you see? It says right here in the Bible. You’ve got to subject yourself to the governing authority because I’m appointed by God to do the things that I’m doing. Regardless of how horrifying and oppressive this ruling authority might be.” This was the kind of thing that was said. It was certainly used as a justification for masters to beat their slaves.
I read an article about that. About how the people in my seminary, professors in my seminary in Richmond, Virginia justified slavery on the basis of this passage. Ruling authorities. If you put it in context, it’s a load of hogwash. It’s just not the way Paul sees it. He sees that the primary authority is God and God alone. The primary authority is God who is unfolding God’s beautiful next purpose in every one of you. The spirit living within each one of us, animating each one of us, bringing about the next beautiful thing. This is what Paul was reaching for. It just happened in this point and time when Paul figured there might be just of a few decades left in human history, that it just seemed to make sense to him that we wouldn’t fight the unjust powers of Rome now. There were more important fish to fry. In the same way in 1st Corinthians he told them look, you would probably be better off if you didn’t marry. I mean there are more important things to do than to be married these days that are short you see. If you can’t avoid being lustful, well then I guess you’re going to have to get married in this period of time, but this is the kind of advice that Paul was giving. He had a context for himself.
But he didn’t lose sight of what God was about and neither should we. So it’s taken out of context and used to oppress other people. It’s always taken out of context – that women obey your husband thing. As Christ loved the church and gave his life for the church, is the way it ends. This is the context in which women are to be loved and to love in return, but it’s been justified to be used to say stay in an abusive marriage. Year after year after year . . . even still.
So Paul had the short view, we have the long view. We look at this passage and we wish it hadn’t been written because it just doesn’t work out in the long view. In the long view, if we are going to unfold the next, if we’re going to live out the spirit’s life as each of us is called to do, then we are going to fight against the injustice in governments surrounding this globe. We have the long view. Paul had the short view. So I wish he hadn’t written it. But he did . . . maybe.
Actually scholars argue about that. They think maybe it’s what is called an interpolation. So the scriptures were written and then copied and then copied again and copied again and copied again. We don’t have the parchment on which Paul wrote this letter. We have copy of copy of copy of copy of copy, we don’t even know how many generations of copies before it got to here. And there are scholars that spend all their waking hours trying to figure out what the original must have been. The way they do that is they dig up the oldest manuscripts they can find and they compare them and they try and figure out whether maybe something was added in one but then got picked up and was copied and copied over again. You can almost see families of manuscripts as you go. This one added this little piece, and it gets copied and copied and copied. But this one over here did not. It seems like maybe that’s the original, not this one over here. You see what I mean? It’s called textual criticism.
So scholars look at this passage and they say if we just lifted it out, if we just took it out, the whole thing would flow much better from the end of Chapter 12 to verse 8 in the thirteenth chapter of Romans, so maybe it was interpolation since we know the interpolations in Romans were done by more conservative folk who wanted to control the community. So maybe it’s an interpolation, maybe he didn’t write it and so I guess that means we can ignore it. At least, that’s how the thinking goes. We can ignore it. Of course, the trouble is there is actually no textual evidence to prove Paul didn’t write it and besides what different does it make. It’s still in our Bible. Whether Paul wrote it or not, it’s still in our Bible and there it is.
Maybe it’s an interpolation and so we figure we can do away with it. That’s something that we modern Christians do a lot. We do it with the historical Jesus. In all this talk about what the historical Jesus is about. You know, we doubt whether he said many of the things that have been put in his mouth in the Gospel accounts. We wonder about those things. We try and figure out what we think the historical Jesus is or was. And that allows us to decide what we’ll follow. “I’m not going to follow the Jesus that I hear about in the Bible. I’m going to follow the teachings of Jesus. I’m going to love my neighbor as myself. But when he says that thing about how you have to hate your mother, you father, your sister, your brother if you’re going to be Jesus’ disciple, well, I doubt whether he said that. I’m not going to follow that.” See how we do that?
We put ourselves over the text. We put ourselves in judgment over the text. The only reason that’s disturbing is that I’m not at all sure we’re qualified to decide what is right and what is wrong. We have a tendency to want to adjust things to fit our own particular drives, needs and desires. So that brings us right back to the question of this text which is authority and submission. What are we to do with texts that come before us with the points of view that we find distressing, that we think do not live up to what the spirit if God is about in the world. Do we just toss them?
I think Paul wrote the letter of Romans to give us a deep sense of what to do. Because Paul certainly wasn’t suggesting that you should simply give allegiance to Caesar; he’d spent half the letter telling you that what you needed to do was give allegiance to God and God alone. But Paul had a vision of what was happening in this world, a vision of the spirit of God, that spirit that lives in each and every one of us, that spirit that expresses itself through each of us in a unique and profound way. Paul had a vision that this spirit was unfolding creation in such a way as to make us more pure, more beautiful, more true and good. This is what the spirit is about for Paul. So fundamentally, what Paul would say to the question how do we know which way to turn as we decide which way to turn as we decide what is right and what is wrong within these texts of scripture or anywhere else? As we attend to that spirit’s voice, we are formed by that spirit’s voice and not by our own needs and desires. It’s tricky stuff. It’s a fine line.
I was driving along I think it was the day before yesterday and I saw this bumper sticker and it said, “I’m already against the next war.” That’s good. That’s good. I wonder whether he or she will be when the time comes. Because group think is a very powerful thing. So you can take a stand now, but later how will it look. We need to be detached enough to be able to hear what that spirit’s voice is saying, that quiet voice on the inside. The truth is for Paul, he realized we couldn’t do it alone. You can’t do it alone because it’s too easy to twist yourself in knots. It’s why we argue about these things in a church. Each and every one of us doing is the work of listening to the spirit of God and questioning whether or not we are giving in to base desires or living towards an unimaginably beautiful future. Because that’s what Paul wanted. He wanted us to imagine a beautiful future and to do everything and anything we could to bring that into being. He had confidence that the spirit of God would unfold within us and allow us to do so. There’s some comfort though in the anxiety of trying to figure it all out.
I think the way Martin Luther put it was this: “Sin boldly and depend upon the grace of God more boldly still.” We do the best we can. We spend the time we need to spend in the presence of the spirit of God to be formed in such a way that we can hear spirit’s next breath. But we recognize that it is entirely possible that when we step out and take an action, that we are wrong, that it is not helpful. It’s okay. The spirit of God will take whatever it is that we offer and make it beautiful. The spirit of God will get God’s way and we will find that each one of us will be woven together into a beautiful and perfect whole. It’s why we celebrate Pentecost because the spirit is alive today and always. Amen.