Monday, September 21, 2015

The Uninvited Child

The Eucharist was offered to unwanted children everywhere. 

Last Sunday, I invited the Vestry and other leaders in the parish to come forward for a special commissioning service.  A lot of the usual suspects came forward including those who have served on the Vestry many times before.  We also saw some new faces in the group, those who are relatively new to the church and leadership in the church. 
            But we also had an uninvited guest join the circle.  He had curly blonde hair and wore trendy round rimmed eye glasses.  And I’m pretty sure he was missing a lens or two.  His church attire included a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  He certainly didn’t look the part of a church leader.  I almost missed seeing the young man who was about three feet tall weighing almost 40 pounds.  He looked to be about two and half years old and his name was Hatch Bearden.
            When I noticed Hatch, I smiled and recalled the same piece of scripture that we read about today and I said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in Christ’s name welcomes Christ himself.”  I laid my hands on Hatch’s head and everyone giggled a little bit because it was cute.  And then we all said, “Amen.” 
            The passage of scripture that I recalled last Sunday is said by Jesus after Jesus sees the disciples arguing about who is going to be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom.  While I don’t believe the Vestry members and other leaders of the parish rushed up to the front of the church fighting over who was the greatest among all leaders at St. Paul’s, I do believe the Spirit called Hatch forward to put things into perspective. 

In the Church, we spend a lot of time trying to find the best and most qualified people to be leaders in the Church.  While this is all well and good, we must not lose sight of how God himself calls people into ministry.  If we look at the entire narrative of scripture, we see God calling a lot of under-qualified people into ministry. 
God calls Abram and Sarai to be the parents of many nations when they are well beyond retirement years.  God calls Moses to be a prophet when Moses has a terrible speech impediment.  God calls Jeremiah, who is only a boy, to be a prophet in a land that is dominated nepotism.  And finally, the Savior of the world was born in a place like Minter, Alabama to lowly parents and rose up to become the King of kings and Lord of lords. 
This King of kings also calls the under-qualified in the calling of his disciples.  The same people who failed out of Rabbi School start arguing along the way about who was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom.  The same people whom Jesus rescues from a life of where they will never amount to anything are arguing about who is going to be the most highly exalted in Jesus’ court.  Oh, the irony!
In order to further establish his point, Jesus puts a child in front of the disciples.  Jesus is basically telling the disciples that he calls them not because of their greatness or a least their perceived greatness.  Rather, Jesus calls these disciples because of their weakness.  Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who have no illusions that they are there because of their greatness.  As I am sure you have heard before, God doesn’t call the qualified; God qualifies the called.
      A couple of months ago, I attended on the One Selma: Coming Home United in Faith meetings when we discussed Return to Worship Week.  A fairly long discussion ensued about how to reach out or evangelize to those who aren’t going to church.  As you might imagine, there were a lot of “best” ideas being tossed around the room.  Soon the conversation devolved into a conversation about whose church had the “greatest” evangelism skills.
I’ll admit there were times during the conversation when I knew that the Episcopal Church had the greatest evangelism tools but like a good Episcopalian, I didn’t say anything.  I sort of just prided myself in knowing that we are the best.  I hope you are picking up on the irony and satire I am projecting.  Looking back at the meeting, I wish Jesus would have been there to put a child in our midst and said, “evangelize to this little guy.”
And I am not talking about Jesus putting a Hatch Bearden in the room—that would have been way too cute.  Rather, I am talking about Jesus putting a child who had nothing in the room, a child who doesn’t have round rimmed sunglasses, a child with shorts that were too small and a shirt that was too big, a child who hadn’t bathed in days, a child who was hungry for food, a child whose parents, for whatever reasons, cannot be fully present, a child who was hungry to be loved.  I say this because this is the kind of child that Jesus put before the disciples—a child that nobody wanted.
I wonder how the conversation might have been different if this sort of thing happened.  And you know as well as I do that we don’t have to go very far to find this child.  I imagine some of you see this child every day in your work or in your daily lives.  I imagine that this child sometimes shows up at the food pantry or in our schools.  I’ve even seen this child walking around the streets of Selma at times and places where nobody needs to be walking around by themselves.
Brothers and sisters, God has put an unwanted child in our midst and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  How will we respond?  How will we reach out to this child?  How will we welcome this child in the name of Christ?
I want to take a minute to reflect on how St. Paul’s has already responded.  Clara Weaver Parrish designed the Upper Hall, now Parker Hall, with a stage in hopes that children would have a space to dance and perform.  Every Sunday, we see a few children dance and run around on the stage.  A couple of times a year we see the children of Little Friends put on a show for Christmas or Graduation.  I wonder what else is possible.**(see footnote)**
Every Thursday, members of this parish work hard to feed the hungry in our community.  Many of these hungry take food back to their homes and cook for their hungry children.  Every day teachers in our parish go to school and teach children who are hungry for knowledge and hungry for love and these teachers feed them with knowledge and love.  Thanks be to God!
Some of you see this child at the Mental Health Center who has been referred to counseling by our schools.  You hear the stories of how this child has learned to survive, stories that are simply unimaginable to most of us.  You do your best to help this child find another way to live but you know there is only so much you can do, you know there is really nothing you can do.  Lord, have mercy upon us all. 
I know there are plenty of other places where you see the child Christ has put in our midst.  And I’d like to hear from you.  Where is this child?  What is this child’s name?  What does this child need?  How can St. Paul’s share the love of God with this child, who like us, can only be saved by the unconditional love of God in Christ?
I’ve already talked a lot about how we use our time and talent to share the love of Christ with this child.  I want to now spend some time talking about how we use our money and resources to share the love of Christ with this child.  After church you will receive a pledge card where you will commit a certain amount of money to St. Paul’s for 2016.
Like me, you will undoubtedly consider how much of your pledge will go toward salaries and building maintenance and programs and all the other things that it takes to keep a church running.  This is certainly an important factor in considering what your pledge will be.  But God isn’t inviting you to put your money into another volunteer organization that simply does “good work” for the community.  God is inviting you to invest in something that is much more than just an earthly institution. 
You are invited to invest in the kingdom of heaven on earth where God has put a child in your midst.  You are investing in an organization that prayerful considers how to serve this child of God who by now you have figured out is Jesus, God’s Son, a child who became lower than low, a child who humbled himself to the point of death, a child who became least of all and whom God ultimately made greatest of all. 
So ultimately, I can’t believe I am going to say this, you aren’t invited to invest in St. Paul’s because of all the great things we do in Selma and beyond.  Instead, you are invited to invest in St. Paul’s because God believes that his light can shine through the Church, an institution that is often plagued by conflict and failure, an institution that often misses the child in our midst, an institution that is ultimately unqualified to be bearers of the good news. 
But this is how our God works.  God is saying to the Church, which tries to convince herself she is greatest of all, to consider being least of all.  And in our consideration of what it means to be the least of all God puts an unwanted child into our midst.  At the sight of this child of God, we are humbled to the point where there is nothing else to do but to give up our life for the sake of this unwanted child.
Only when the Church notices this poor and lowly child, can the Church truly understand what her mission is and her ultimate mission is to lift this child up and make this child known to the whole world.  Our mission is to pour all that we have and all that we are into creating a space where this child can be loved, where this child can be worshiped.
This space certainly includes our worship space and what a beautiful place to life up God’s only Son.  The space includes our facilities where people gather to pray and study and cry and eat and laugh so that they may be nourished to be people of God in their daily lives—at work, at home, in the community. 
This space includes places outside the church building where we are equipped to welcome and serve the child that would never come through our front door.  The Church is more than a building or institution.  Because of Jesus Christ, God has put the mission of the Church in our hearts so wherever child of Christ goes we will be there too. 
As a prayer attributed to St. Francis, it is in giving that we receive.  Specifically it is in the giving of our greatest earthly treasures (time, talent, and money) where we receive the greatest gift of all—God’s only Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  And when we receive Jesus Christ God’s Son, there is only one thing that there is left to give and that is to welcome and make this child known. 
St. Paul’s—God has chosen you to share the knowledge of light and salvation that we gain from receiving this child into our midst.  God has chosen you to lift this child up and make him known.  May we have the grace to give up the illusion of trying to become great.  May we have the grace to lay down our greatest treasures at the feet of this child and receive the greatest gift of all—to know that we too are welcomed by our heavenly Father who calls us all beloved sons and daughters.  Amen.


I was approached by Professor William Maxwell who like, Abraham, was called despite his age and health to be the genius of something miraculous for the city of Selma.  A life long educator and learner of child psychology, Professor Maxwell dreams of starting an orchestra school for children in Selma and his dream has even caught the attention of Julliard School in New York.  In the beginning, the children will be selected from a few churches around Selma including St. Paul's.  One of the hopes is for these children to go around to different churches to sing and dramatize the gospel in ways that will touch and move people to grow in the knowledge and love of God.  Stay tuned for more information about this exciting possibility.      




Monday, September 14, 2015

"I ain't never been nothin' but a winner"

(click link to listen to sermon)

Today is kickoff Sunday at St. Paul’s.  Thanks to a collaborative effort between our parish staff and the Christian Formation and the Parish Life Committees kickoff Sunday will be a little sweeter this year with an Ice Cream Sundae party following the service in Parker Hall—thus the name Sundae Sunday.  Make sure you get upstairs before Mary Katherine because I am sure she will want to test each ice cream tub with her fingers.    
A lot of other things are kicking off around the community.  The new amphitheater saw its official kickoff with the Riverwalk Park Arts and Music Festival put on by the Blackbelt BenefitGroup and the festival featured some really good blues and jazz bands.  Mary Katherine kicked her shoes off and danced in the jump house for approximately 4 hours. 
Our schools kicked off a new academic year about a month ago.  The One Selma: Coming Home United in Faith group kicks off another initiative with Return to Worship Week in hopes that God will unite his children in worship.  And then there is the most anticipated kickoff of all and that is the kickoff of the college football season.
If you actually attend one of these games, one of the things you are likely to see before kickoff is an inspirational video to get the fans fired up.  At Bryant-Denny stadium, a part of that inspirational video includes some words from the late Coach Bryant.  The funny thing about the video is that you really can’t understand what he is saying but that doesn’t stop 100,000 fans yelling wildly at the sound of the Bear.    
If you go back home and listen to the video in the quiet confines of your own home you can barely discern his words through his thick accent and mumble.  And what Coach Bryant says is, “I ain’t never been nothin’ but a winner.”  These are, of course, some of the most quoted words from Bear Bryant.  In college football and in most of the professional world, a winning kind of attitude is needed in order to be successful.


Our culture has us living in the tireless pursuit of earning our keep in this world.  Our culture demands that you must deserve everything you get.  And this is a lot easier for some than it is for others.  I know you will be surprised to hear this, but that kind of winning attitude is also found in the church.  Peter, the Rock, the one upon whom Christ built his church, has the same kind of attitude in today’s lesson.
When Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”  He responds, “You are the Messiah.”  Peter is right and Peter is wrong.  Peter got the title right but his definition is a little off.  When Peter says Messiah, he is really saying to Jesus, “you are the one who is going to free us from Roman oppression.”  Like your ancestor King David, you will slay the enemy with the flick of the wrist.  You are a winner and ain’t gonna be nothin’ but a winner.
Peter’s answer seems fairly reasonable because, the Messiah, after all, was supposed to crush the rulers of this world.  However, Jesus quickly hushes Peter and says, “and tell nobody about me.”  I want to take a timeout real quick.  As Episcopalians, who often pride ourselves on not taking the Bible so literally like some of our brothers and sisters, we take this verse from scripture quite literally.  You know the verse that says, “And Jesus sternly told the disciples to tell anyone about him.”
This isn’t a case of Jesus not giving us permission to not talk about the good news of Christ in the world—this is not a get out of the work of evangelism for free card.  Rather, this is a case of Jesus saying, “you don’t get it and because you don’t get it, it is probably better if you keep your mouth shut until you do.”  But on the other hand, there are some in this world who should keep their mouth shut because they are sharing an incomplete message of the gospel and ultimately crippling the church’s witness to the good news.
To be fair the good news doesn’t sounds so good on the front end.  The good news starts when Jesus says, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected and killed, and rise again after three days.”  Imagine if Bear Bryant said, “I ain’t your normal kind of winner.  I win by giving the football to the other team at my own goal line.”  As at football fan, you know how ridiculous this would be.  And as an athletic director, you would never hire this guy.  So who in their right mind would accept these words from Jesus? 
Who would expect their Messiah to say, “the path to winning first involves losing and not just losing a rivalry game but ultimately losing to the death penalty of an entire program.”  The Messiah’s plan is basically to put an end to the world as we know it, an end to a world that thrives off of winners and losers, off of who is deserving and who is not.
Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world and Jesus’ kingdom thrives off of different kind of principles.  And that is why Jesus says to Peter, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  Jesus’ definition of Messiah is quite different than Peter’s.  For Jesus, a Messiah puts the needs of others before himself, Messiah even means putting the needs of outsiders (i.e. Gentiles) before the needs of his own people—the Israelites and even his own family.  
And because Jesus operates this way in a world that thrives off of power and control, Jesus is subjected to suffering—even suffering at the hands of his own people.  As I said last week, the kingdom of heaven is colliding with the kingdoms of this earth.  But this is the beginning of the good news.  This collision of heaven and earth is actually a sign that something new and more wonderful is poised to break through.  But still this new reality is difficult to accept especially if we have never experienced life on the other side of the collision. 
            Peter is just as confused as we are about Jesus’ statement of suffering.  He hasn’t come to terms with the gravity of Jesus’ statement, at least not yet.  The Gospel lesson does not tell us exactly what Peter says when he rebukes Jesus, but we do know what Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan!” 
The scene might not be too unlike the time when the quarterback for Alabama, AJ McCarron, threw an 80 yard touchdown pass only to be greeted by a livid Coach Saban at the sideline who probably would have put him in a sleeper hold only if it weren’t for a TV audience and 100,000 screaming fans.
Basically, Coach Saban called a running play only to see his quarterback go off script and run a Hail Mary.  In the same way, Peter is hoping that Jesus calls for a Hail Mary only to see Jesus call a running play into the teeth of a number one defense.  Like Coach Saban, Jesus knows his team can score a touchdown by throwing deep, but Jesus also knows there is much more that goes into a game plan than simply heaving the ball into the end zone every time.  And for the record, I am not comparing Nick Saban to Jesus—far from it in fact.   
I can almost hear Jesus saying, I may not be the God that you want but I am the God that you need.  In order for God’s plan to work, Jesus has to run into the heart of the defense.  And as bad as the play calling might seem at the time, Jesus will run this play again and again until finally he exposes the opponent’s ultimate weakness, and that ultimate weakness is the opponent’s thirst for ultimate power and total domination.
And just when the opponent thinks that they have the game in hand as Jesus hangs on the cross, Jesus achieves victory on a play nobody could have dreamed up.  Jesus emerges from the tomb.  Jesus rises from the dead.  Jesus reveals life where life was previously deemed impossible—life beyond death and the cross.  Keeping with the football analogy theme—it’s kind of like that time the underdog Auburn returned a field goal attempt to beat a championship bound Alabama team in the last second of the game.  I hope everyone is happy now.

But just because we have the winning playbook in our hands that doesn’t mean we should go selling it to any poor soul who will listen.  Jesus goes one step further and says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross.”  Jesus says, if anyone wants to start on my team, they must actually execute the plays as they are written.    
In order to tell the story of Jesus, we must understand how the story of Jesus is playing out in our own lives.  And what this really means is spending some time reflecting on scripture and with others to notice how the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is a reality in our own lives.  In a few weeks, you will have an opportunity to clarify your story with others in a new class called Sunday Conversations.
During October, the adult class will talk the walk with Christ and reflect on the spiritual journey.  And this will be a good way to be affirmed in your identity as a disciple of Christ and hopefully this experience will equip you to share the good news to those who are hungry to hear a word of hope. 
And y’all our world, our community is hungry for a word of hope, hungry to live in a world that isn’t dominated by who has the most power and control but rather a world that thrives because we give up our power and control, because we risk making ourselves vulnerable even to the point of death.  Ultimately, we are all hungry to live in a world where are loved not because we deserve it or have earned it but because we all have dignity because we are all made in the image of God—in the eyes of God we are all the same—sinners in need of redemption.
And the good news is that this world of redemption is already available in Christ.  On the cross, God shows us how far he is willing to go to get the message of love across by giving up his only Son to death.  And through the empty tomb, God is showing us that life endures even after the world of power and control has done its worst.  Even though we die, we are alive in Christ.         
At the end of the day, it’s about saying, “I ain’t nothin’ but a follower of Jesus.”  When we follow Jesus we not only put to death the tireless ways of this broken world, we also get to go where Jesus goes.  We get to minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.  We get to be with all the lonely people in the world and share God’s transforming love and say, “God loves you, no strings attached.”
Yes, we will follow Jesus into some pretty scary places, but ultimately we will follow Jesus home to a place where the ultimate victory is won.  May you have the grace to take up your cross and follow Jesus into a kingdom that God kicked off a long, long time ago.  May you have the grace to realize your position in a story that can’t be written up in any playbook only experienced in the wild and wonderful imagination of a God who is always out-kicking the coverage.  Amen.      


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beyond the Collision of Heaven and Earth

            There is a story about two men who were born a world apart.  One was born on an old plantation in Red River Parish, Louisiana where his family worked as sharecroppers—they were poorer than poor.  The other was born into a middle class family in Fort Worth, Texas.  One went on to lose everyone and everything he ever loved.  While the other went on to out kick the coverage and married up—he married way up.
One ended up homeless and made a living by traveling around the US to find odd jobs and beg on street corners.  The other struck gold and become wealthy as an art dealer and lived in the fancy part of town.  The homeless man got into some trouble with the law.  The wealthy man got into some trouble with his wife.
The poor homeless beggar started attending a Mission in Fort Worth where he found a warm place and a hot meal.  The repentant husband followed his wife to the Mission where they served the homeless.  The Mission is where Denver Moore and Ron Hall first meet.  The Mission is where the worlds of these two men collide and this collision sends them on a journey that only God could dream up.
Some of you probably already know this story is documented in a bestselling book entitled TheSame Kind of Different as Me which is slated to hit the big screen sometime in 2016.  The story goes on to talk about how the lives of these men were changed forever because they committed to remain friends forever.  It is a remarkable story that is soaked in grace—one that we can all can learn from and be inspired by. 

(Ron Hall and Denver Moore)

In today’s gospel lesson from Mark, we see two worlds collide when Jesus visits the region of Tyre.  The region of Tyre is populated by mostly Gentiles or non-Jews.  However, there is a small Jewish population that resides in Tyre, and Jesus drops by for a visit.
It is believed that the Jewish people in this town were poor and often taken advantage of by the wealthy Gentiles.  This little nugget of insight might give us a better understanding as to why Jesus insults this Gentile woman who comes to ask that his daughter be healed.  Jesus responds to this woman by saying, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
While the insult might be a place from righteous anger, there is no sugar coating calling someone else a dog.  To call someone a dog is to severely insult another.  Dogs were considered unclean and unwanted.  The woman does not back down to this insult and fires back, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  And this was enough—Jesus says, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 
I could spend a lot of time dissecting the theology of this lesson with all the many problems it presents.  However, I want to focus on how this conversation between Jesus and the Gentile woman re-defines and re-directs the mission of God through Christ.  Essentially, God is saying his work is not only entrusted to the children (i.e. the nation of Israel) but also to the dogs (i.e. the ritually unclean, the Gentiles, everyone else).  In order for this to happen, the dividing wall between the Israelites and the Gentiles must be broken down. 
Before these two groups can work together in unity for the spread of the kingdom, their worlds must first collide.  And as we read on in scripture we see a story filled with grace, a story of how two worlds colliding transforms the people of God into one human family, a story that only God could dream up.
In theory, the church is supposed to be God’s body on earth that carries on the story of Jesus, the story of how the grace of God breaks down barriers and unites people of all kinds—rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, black and white, republican and democrat, clean and unclean, and all other barriers that threaten our common life. 
However, as highlighted in today’s letter from James, the church often falls short of its mission.  In his letter, James basically calls out a church community that honors the Lord with their lips and not in their lives, a church community that prays for the poor but doesn’t do a thing to live differently.  And this ultimately leads James to pen some of the most controversial words in scripture, “faith without works is dead.”
I am not going to spend time unpacking these often misunderstood words of scripture.  Rather, I do believe it is helpful consider the fruit of our faith.  What is the result of believing in a God who has the same posture toward all people—Jew or Gentile, slave or free, sinner or saint?  What are the consequences of trusting a God who calls us into a new community where we are all—rich and poor alike—are given the same title in the kingdom of God—beloved sons and daughters?
The consequence of believing in this kind of God transforms how we live in this world that is so often shaped by social conventions.  The impact of believing in a God who unites Gentile and Jew, Denver and Ron is a world that works because of grace—not because of social structure, not politics, not class structure, not even government or law enforcement.  Instead, God is orchestrating the ultimate collision of two worlds, the collision of heaven and earth, and this collision transforms our world and reveals a new creation.
We say it every Sunday—your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  In other words, God help us live in your new creation.  The hard part of living into this prayer is seeing beyond the collision.  Left to our own devices we humans might see this collision as the end of the road and turn around—like the travelers who left for Emmaus after Jesus died on the cross.
   Take Denver and Ron for example.  When they first met, it wasn’t friendship at first sight.  Both were skeptical as to how this kind of relationship would work.  But through God’s grace they kept encountering one another until finally the kingdom of heaven was at hand. 
In today’s lesson, the collision is noticed when Jesus insults this Gentile woman.  Think about how you respond to insult.  There are two common ways to go about it.  The first is to run away and retreat, and the other is to respond with more insult, neither of which is going to get us very far.  However, the gentile woman sees past the collision and the kingdom of heaven breaks through.
 Chuck Yeager said when he broke the sound barrier, “the moment before you break the sound barrier is the moment when the cockpit shakes the most.” 
Keeping this in mind, I am not so sure that we should be so shocked that the church has been prone to failure and chaos.  I am sure that the church needs to stop making excuses.  I am sure the church needs to stop pretending to be something it is not—the church is not perfect and neither are its people.  The church will never be perfect, and I don’t think God is waiting on us to be perfect either. 
Rather, the church can be that place where Jew and Gentile crash into each other.  The church can be that place where people like Denver and Ron collide.  The church can be that place where people who aren’t used to showing up in the same room together sit next to each other in the same pew.   After all, church is that place where heaven and earth collide, that place where catch a glimpse of how God is taking two worlds and making the whole creation new.
Even more, the church has to be that place where worlds collide because God has given the church the essential ingredient to be transformed by this collision and that ingredient is grace.  Keeping this collision image in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the church often looks so crazy from an outsider’s perspective.  The church is the primary place where God is orchestrating the ultimate collision between heaven and earth so that we all may live in a new creation.
And every once in a while God’s grace outshines our failure—like we saw on Palm Sunday and again when Bishop Curry visited.  God’s grace shines through when people who might not normally greet one another in the name of the Lord shake hands and say, “Peace be with you.”  God’s grace shines through when two and three year olds break every church rule and laugh and run up and down the aisles of the church. 
God’s grace shines through when volunteers and clients at the Miller Childers’ Food Pantry exchange a smile and for that brief moment there is no distinction between volunteer and client.  God’s grace shines through on a holiday weekend when many are on vacation or sleeping in.  God’s grace shines through when we are given the vision to see beyond the messiness of two worlds colliding. 

(Palm Sunday at St. Paul's)

It is easy to miss God’s grace if we don’t train our eyes to see beyond the collision.  And by now you might have gathered that the word collision is a nice way of saying death.  Before there is resurrection there is death—death of the way things have always been, death to our prejudices, death to our own sin, ultimately death to our pride. 
All these things I just mentioned are necessary if we are interested in living in a world where there is a dividing wall.  However, if we are interested in living in a world beyond the dividing wall, then there are some things that we are going to have to lay to rest, there are some collisions that we need to prepare ourselves for. 
But there is good news, there is life beyond the collision, there is resurrection, there is life in a world that had never existed before now and we know this because Jesus is risen from the dead.  God accomplished something in Jesus that was never before possible—resurrection.       
Because of this faith we have been given in the risen Christ, the Church is in the business of death and resurrection.  And the business of death and resurrection is often messy and painful.  But the gift of Christianity is not a retreat from the messy and painful but rather a way to endure and persevere.  The gift of living according to the story of God in Christ is living in a world surpassing human understanding, the gift of living beyond the collision of heaven and earth is something only God could dream up. 
May you have the grace to see beyond the collision and be transformed into living members of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Amen.