Monday, October 26, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect

“Practice Makes Perfect”

                Last week the Morgan Academy Pee-Wee football team wrapped up an undefeated season.  If that isn't impressive enough, they did it without allowing an opponent to score on them once during the entire season!  Even for pee-wee football standards, that is incredible.  Some of the players include some of our own—Cink Minter, John Beekman, and Wilks Chittom.  Congratulations!

(Morgan Academy Pee Wee Football Team)

            While the 1994 St. Francisco 49ers Pee-Wee football team that I played on didn’t hold opponents to zero points over the course of the season, we did manage to go undefeated and win the championship that year.  I can’t brag too much about the championship because I suffered a season ending injury four games into the season when I broke my elbow after diving for a lose fumble.
            I’ll have to admit that I was kind of relieved because I didn’t like football practice.  While I loved game day and the cheering fans, it didn’t seem worth it to suffer all week in order to get there.  Like Allen Iverson, a famous basketball player, once said at a more memorable press conference, “Why are we always talkin’ about practice?  I mean we are talking about practice and not the game!”

(Allen Iverson)

            Over the last several weeks in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has been holding practice for his disciples.  Jesus has been coaching them up on what it means to be a follower of Christ.  And so far, Jesus and his team have 100 points and the devil has 0.  But Jesus warns the disciples about an opponent even more powerful from the devil.  So he tries to prepare the disciples with some extra strength and conditioning drills. 
Jesus teaches them that this kingdom is inaugurated through the death and resurrection of the Son of Man.  Jesus teaches the disciples that his kingdom will see the 2nd and 3rd teams move to 1st team.  Jesus says that his new world will be run by a ruler who is servant to all.
It doesn’t seem like the disciples like practice either because they keep on wanting to talk about the big game, they are looking ahead.  They can’t wait to run through the Jerusalem tunnel to the sound of thousands of screaming fans.  The disciples can hardly contain themselves and are anxious to see Jesus sack the Roman authorities.   Bear with me please; I’ve been known to take a metaphor too far. 
            Jesus tries to warn his followers that the execution of his game plan won’t look quite like what they envision.  He knows that the disciples will never understand his game plan unless they are ready to see where they are weak, unless they are ready to learn from their mistakes.
            So before the big match-up, Jesus schedules a non-conference game in order to help the disciples get a live tune up for the main event.  The match-up is against a seemingly weak opponent in a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus shouts, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  However, the disciples try to hush the man and tell him to keep quiet.  The disciples have seen this play before.  The last time someone called Jesus the Messiah, Jesus told them to tell no one about it.  So the disciples are doing what they think they are supposed to do.
            Plus the disciples just witnessed James and John get admonished by Jesus because they try to tell Jesus what to do.  So when Bartimaus tells Jesus to heal him, the disciples are quick to stop the man from falling to the same trap as they did.  But the disciples haven’t seen the entire playbook.  They haven’t caught onto the fact that Jesus is setting up the biggest counter play of all time.
The disciples are left scratching their heads when Jesus responds differently to the blind beggar.   Jesus stops and says to the crowd, “Call him here.”  So the blind man throws off his cloak and he asks, “My teacher, let me see again.”  And to that Jesus simply says, “your faith has made you well.”  The man was immediately healed and follows Jesus on the way.   
            Ultimately, we should conclude that the disciples and the blind Bartimaeus have different intentions behind their questions.  While the disciples hope for personal gain, the blind Bartimaus trusts that only Jesus can heal him.  Notice what Bartimaus does after he is healed.  Bartimaus follows Jesus along the way.  This healing leads Bartimaus to become a follower of Christ.  I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience where healing was the path to discipleship.  I’d love to hear your story sometime.
            So in short, this encounter exposes his followers’ biggest weakness; he exposes their complete lack of knowledge of what the Messiah is all about.  Yes, the Messiah or the Son of David is poised to be king but he doesn't plan to get there by total domination of the opponent but instead through the rarely called play of compassion and mercy.  Bartimaus sees that Jesus’ mercy is the key to victory, but the disciples are blind to this truth because of their blind ambition for power and control.
Jesus is teaching the disciples that in order to truly follow him they must be healed from their own spiritual blindness.  Up until this point, the disciples have been blind to what it means to be true followers of Christ.  Jesus is trying to get them to see that his kingdom doesn’t look like the kingdoms of this world.  He is telling them that discipleship has nothing to do with climbing the company ladder.  Discipleship isn’t about personal gain.  And discipleship is definitely not about deciding who is worthy enough to come to Christ for healing. 
This morning I am compelled to bring up a group of people who are often deemed by our society and even our church as those who are unworthy of healing.  In a sense, these people are also blind.  For the majority of their lives they are confined to a cinder-block house and for most of these people this is probably the best place for them to be.
(Donaldson Correctional Facility)

As you know, Justin Averette recently was on staff for Kairos Prison Ministry at Donaldson Correctional Facility in West Jefferson County.  Donaldson houses many inmates who are on death row or who serve life sentences where they spend their entire lives living out the consequence of their sin.  You might even say that we are blind to these inmates because they are out of sight and out of mind.
However, through Justin God gave St. Paul’s the opportunity to not only notice these men but to help these men know the healing power of God’s love and grace.  Jesus calls these men into our midst and like the blind Bartimaus many of them are hungry to see again.
Many of you made cookies.  Some of you gave money.  And our children decorated colorful placemats that were reminders of God’s love and the beauty of God’s creation.  Justin sat at a table with a group of these men for an entire weekend and in Justin’s words his job was to “listen and love.”  He wasn’t charged with saving these men.  He wasn’t charged with condemning these men.  All he was asked to do was respond to Jesus’ commandment of love. 
During open mic night, some of the men stood up to talk about what the experience meant to them and there was a refrain.  These men were familiar with outside groups and outside church groups coming into prison for a weekend.  But these men said Kairos was different.  Instead of being treated like prisoners or even animals, the Kairos ministry team treated them like human beings, like children of God.  In my words, the Kairos team lived out the words of our Baptismal Covenant that says, “respect the dignity of every human being.”
Friends, like the story of Bartimaus, the story of what happened at Donaldson this past weekend is not only a story of healing for the inmates but also a story of healing for us.  Jesus is using the good news to save us from the presumption of believing we know who is deserving of God’s love simply because we are on the inside, simply because we are Jesus’ closest followers.  God is reminding the Church again that the best examples of faith are often given by those who are on the outside. 
Jesus is reminding us that discipleship is not about having our own wishes and desires granted.  Instead, discipleship is about telling the world that the healing power of God’s love is available for all even for those who are most isolated from our communities even those who have essentially isolated themselves.
You may be wondering what kind of faith is being exhibited by these outsiders.  Let’s revisit the part of the lesson that says, Bartimaus throws of his cloak.  This is significant because this cloak is the only thing in this world that keeps this blind man safe.  This cloak is his only possession and so to throw off his cloak is a sign that this man has been given a faith to trust that only Jesus can give him true security not only in the life to come but also in his earthly life.
I know that throwing off your proverbial cloaks is difficult especially if you have multiple cloaks to protect you.  If you throw off these cloaks, then you become vulnerable in this often times cruel and mean world.  You expose ourselves to a higher likelihood of pain and disappointment. 
But the good news says that at the same time you throw off your proverbial cloaks you move closer to experiencing the power of God’s healing love.  The good news says that when you throw off our cloaks, then you move closer to wearing the gown of Jesus, you move closer to being covered by a security blanket that can never fail you. 
As much as I want to say just do it!  I know that this takes practice, a lot of practice.  The disrobing of your earthly cloaks takes spiritual discipline.  And hopefully your spiritual disciplines will help you trust more and more that God will provide.  Remember that you say that prayer all the time when you say, “give us today our daily bread.”
How can you practice? The first step is hard because it starts by deciding how you use your money.  After all, your money is how you acquire many of your cloaks in the first place.  Speaking from personal experience, I know how hard it is to change how you’ve always spent your money.  But I can also speak from experience and say, the more I give up control of my money to God, the freer I am to draw closer to the healing power of God’s love, the freer I am to trust that God’s way is better than my way. 
And believe me, I am not where I think I should be, but Jamie and I are working on it.  We are practicing, and you should know that I still don’t like practice.  But it’s not about me—it is about continuing the mission of God in Christian community for the benefit of God’s creation. 
I practice because I know these spiritual exercises will better prepare me to be a disciple of Christ.  If I truly want to call myself a disciple, then I know I must put my money where my mouth is and my mouth is usually in the Church and in the world proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.            
I want to close with another practice drill.  In your prayers, I invite you to ask, “What do I need form God?  What do I need God to do for me so I can be healed?  And listen to how God is responding.  Listen to how God is revealing your blind spots.  It may take some time but once you see your blind spots, ask God to heal you.  Figure out what cloaks you need to throw off so you may have the grace to draw closer to the healing power of God’s mercy and love.  Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Gospel According to Dumb and Dumber

The Gospel According to Dumb and Dumber

            There is a scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber that I am reminded of as I read the exchange between James and John and Jesus.  Dumb and Dumber is a comedy starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.  I don’t necessarily recommend that you go out and watch this movie unless you are looking for a way to waste two hours of your life.  But if it is one of those days where you just need to watch a two star comedy, then go for it! 
The scene I am reminded of is when Lloyd Christmas who is played by Jim Carrey finally decides to ask the attractive Mary Swanson out on a date.  Lloyd knows that his chances are slim but musters up the courage to ask, “What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?” After Mary tries to figure out how to say no delicately, Lloyd blurts out, “Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary.  The least you can do is level with me.  What are my chances?”
 Mary Swanson: “Not good.”  Lloyd Christmas: “You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?”  Mary Swanson:  “I'd say more like one out of a million.”  [pause]  Lloyd Christmas:  “So you're telling me there's a chance... YEAH!”

In today’s Gospel lesson, we are confronted with a biblical era cast of Dumb and Dumber.  James and John (a.k.a. dumb and dumber) have been following this Jesus guy for quite some time.  And for the third time, they hear Jesus tell his followers that he must undergo suffering, die, and on the third day rise again. 
Surely the know that the last thing they should ask is for one to sit on Jesus’ right hand and the other to sit on Jesus’ left.  They just saw Jesus compare Peter to Satan for asking a similar question.  They were just scolded by Jesus for arguing about who was going to be greatest in his kingdom. But dumb and dumber ask the question anyway.  First, they demand Jesus grant whatever they ask which is bizarre enough.  And then they ask if they can be the highest ranking officers in Jesus’ kingdom.        
Y’all, this is funny.  This is even more outlandish than Lloyd asking a beautiful woman like Mary out on a date.  We are so used to reading scripture seriously that we often miss the humor that is right there between the lines of the text.  Like Jesus points out, James and John are oblivious to the foolishness of their question. 
Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"  In other words, Jesus is saying there is a one and a trillion chance they can sit one on his left and one on his right.  But dumb and dumber think they have a chance and say, “We are able.” 
This is the point in the biblical story where the movie Dumb and Dumber breaks from the metaphor.  Jesus goes on to remind the disciples that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.  This is the point in the story when Jesus reminds the disciples that life in his kingdom depends on servant leadership.  God’s kingdom will not be ruled by a tyrant but rather by a servant who becomes least of all.  And any who want to be a part of God’s kingdom must also seek a life of service to others. 
Again, Jesus is turning the tables and trying to describe what it really means to be a leader in God’s kingdom.  The disciples live in a world where leadership is gained by acquiring status, money, and land.  The disciples live in a world where kingdoms are ruled by those who have a host of servants waiting on them night and day.  The disciples live in a world where the ultimate symbol of power comes when you gain an army to serve you.  Doesn’t sound too much different than our world does it?
Kingdoms today might not be so flagrant about these symbols of status but they still exist.  We live in a world where those who have the most money have the most power to shape public opinion.  We live in a world where the spotlight shines brightest on those who are rich and famous and often times regardless of character or achievement.  We live in a world where everyone, on some level, hopes to be lifted up as greatest of all. 
The narrative of our world tells us that we have to work to be lifted up as greatest of all.  We live in a world where we have to create our identity as people who are noticed and respected.  We live in a world where we are taught to spend most of our time convincing people to like us or notice us.  You as well as I know how exhausting this is. 
We all know the pain and disappointment of rejection after we have tried so hard to be accepted and valued.  We all know how fatal it is to our ego to hear the word “no” after we have worked diligently to be noticed and taken seriously.  Sure, every once in a while we catch a break.  Every once in a while we make it on merit alone, but even then it is exhausting to work so hard.  And for what?  So people will like us?  Surely there is something more fulfilling to life.
There is good news for all of us.  The good news comes from a God who is creating a world in Christ where our identity has nothing to do with us.  God is creating a world where our identity has nothing to do with our failure and even our success.  Instead, God is inaugurating a new kingdom through the death and resurrection of Christ, through the baptism of Christ where our identity is given to us.  In God’s kingdom, we don’t have to work to create our identity.
Our identity as the baptized has already been created by the one who came not to be served but to serve.  Our identity as the baptized is marked not by how many people serve us but instead how we reach out in care and concern for others.  Through the inauguration of God’s new kingdom in Christ, God is helping us die to the illusion that our identity depends on how many servants we have and claim the identity of the one who came to serve all.
Max Lucado says it like this, “You may be decent.  You may pay taxes and kiss your kids and sleep with a clean conscience.  But apart from Christ you aren’t holy…Accept the work already done, the work of Jesus on the cross.  Accept the goodness of Jesus Christ.  Abandon your own works and accept his.  Abandon your own decency and accept his.  Stand before God in his name, not yours.” 
In short, what we do as Christians isn’t about us.  Our Christian identity calls us to point to the good news of Christ in word and deed.  Our Christian identity is about living according to the law that Christ himself perfected.  Our Christian identity is marked by living according to the mercy and compassion of God in Christ.  We are transformed as a people who believe in death and resurrection, who believe that there is always hope for something new.  Ultimately, our life as Christians is about serving as Christ served us even when we act like dumb and dumber.
At the end of the day, it is all about asking, “Why do I do what I do?”  Why do I work so hard at the food pantry?  Why do I work so hard to breathe life into my work environment?  Why do I try so hard to get my family to church on Sunday morning?  Why do I care so much about making the world a better place?
I’ll be the first to admit that my motives are sometimes misguided like the misguided intentions of James and John.  Sometimes I want people to know that I am a good priest, a good husband and father, a good friend, a good golfer.  Sometimes I am no different than dumb and dumber. 
I want people to know that I have earned and created my identity in this world.  I want people to know that my works define who I am as a person.  But I also have to admit that I am not always a good priest or husband or father or friend.  Sometimes I mess up.  One thing is for sure, life is exhausting when I am in the business of trying to keep my image up.    
But God is giving us a way to live differently.  There is good news says we don’t have to be motivated by keeping up our self-image.  God sent Christ to change our motives and intentions.  God in Christ is delivering us form a world where we are motivated to create our own identity by what we do and rooting us in a world where we are motivated to accept the identity of Christ who came to do it all by serving all.
The more we start to trust this new identity in Christ the more we see our successes and achievements not as evidence of how good we are but instead as evidence that God is using us to help this broken world know the endless pursuit of God’s love through servant leadership.  The more we start to trust this new identity in Christ the more we see our failure not as a measure of our self-worth but rather as a way to learn from our mistakes, seek amendment of life, and grow in grace. 
We believe in a God who can take our success and even our failures to reveal his ultimate truth.  As I have heard someone say before, we are all actors.  Whether we put on a good performance or a bad one, the play will go on, the message of God’s love will get across through the grace of God.  How awesome is that?
This way of thinking shouldn’t free us from the responsibility to serve others as Christ serves us.  Rather, this way of thinking frees us from the fear of failure.  This way of thinking also frees us from the sin of pride.  And I strongly believe when we are freed from the sin of pride and freed from the fear of failure, then we are free to thrive, we are free to really live.  We are free to trust that the only thing that matters is bearing the truth of God by giving up our lives to serve the one who became greatest of all by becoming servant to all.

May you have the grace to let God put away your pride and your fear so that you may find life by trusting that the only thing that really matters is serving others without condition for God in Christ has done likewise for you.  Amen.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

You Can't Buy Your Way to Heaven

You Can't Buy Your Way to Heaven

This past week I got into a theological discussion with a buddy of mine from seminary.  In short, our conversation discussed where our understanding of sin comes from and how our sin is dealt with in the light of God’s grace and mercy.  Sounds riveting, right?!  I bet you wish you were there! 
          Well, you are in luck!  You can see what we said first hand by visiting my Facebook page.  I know it is really tempting not to whip out your smart phones right now and log onto Facebook but it can wait until after church…
In all honesty, I am not sure what was accomplished in our conversation.  If exchange did anything for the poor soul who actually read the thread, maybe it showed that Christian discourse can be civil and thoughtful.  The conversation certainly didn’t change our stance on the issue, but I do think the conversation lead us to a better understanding of each other and of God.
Ultimately, the conversation reminded me that the gospel of Christ is not spoken in a vacuum like a one line quote on somebody’s Facebook page.  Even more, the conversation served as a reminder that the gospel can be twisted by picking and choosing which Bible verse we like the best. 
While some gospel truths are more universal in nature than others like John 3:16, most gospel truths must be understood in a particular context.  In other words, the gospel must speak to us where we are in our particular time, place, and circumstance.
Perhaps the most universal truth about the gospel is that God finds us where we are and loves us there.  God finds us in our tears, in our illness, in our weariness, in our dying, in our suffering, in our sinfulness, in our affliction, and even in our pride and joy.  And every time, God greets us with his love.
The universality of this gospel truth rings loud and clear in today’s lesson.  After Jesus informs the lawyer that he can’t earn his way into heaven through good deeds, Jesus looks at the man in love and says, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
The temptation in Jesus’ response is to say that we, too, must sell all that we own and give it to the poor if we are interested in earning salvation.  If this is our response, then I am afraid we have missed the point just like the lawyer missed the point.  The lawyer went away grieving because he knew that he couldn’t do what Jesus asked him to do.  He couldn’t sell his possessions and give it to the poor. 
And the lawyer’s response is exactly the point Jesus is communicating.  No one can earn their way into heaven.  Even if the lawyer did choose to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, he would still be lost because salvation would still be about his actions and not the action of God in Christ. 
If salvation is given to the hands of mortals, then we are basically saying that we are in charge of our own salvation.  This way of thinking about salvation leads to a faith that believes we can squeeze our way into heaven if we do it just right.  The fundamental problem with this way of thinking puts our salvation at the center of our lives instead of God who is the author of our salvation.
Jesus further emphasizes his point with the famous saying, “it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needed than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  In case you were wondering, it is in fact impossible for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle.
  Even Peter, the one who often speaks before he thinks, recognizes Jesus’ point when he says, “Then, who then can be saved?”  And to that Jesus says, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” 
But then Peter falls into the same trap as the lawyer in understanding that salvation can be earned by saying, “But Jesus look at me and all that I’ve done.  I have followed you!  I am worthy of salvation because I gave up everything to follow you.”  Jesus doesn’t directly affirm or deny Peter.
Instead, Jesus says that those who follow him for the sake of the good news will receive 100 fold in this age and in the age to come receive life everlasting.  Do you notice anything peculiar on this list of things one will receive by following Jesus?  On his list of what his followers will receive in this life, Jesus includes persecution.  And when persecution enters the picture, Peter is rendered speechless. 
Peter, like the lawyer, believes that salvation can be achieved by mortals.  Peter believes that Jesus is a great human king sent by God to destroy the rulers of this world with a sword just like his ancestor King David.  And because Peter doesn’t understand the nature of salvation in Christ, he can’t believe persecution is a part of the equation.  Peter doesn’t understand that the nature of God’s salvation of Christ is not from this world.  God’s salvation doesn’t come through human hands, not even through the human hands of Jesus. 
  Peter will soon discover that he, too, cannot achieve salvation on his own.  During Jesus’ trial, Peter is questioned and asked if he is a follower of Jesus.  Like Jesus predicts, Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows three times.  Peter is afraid of death because in Peter’s mind death is the end of the story. 
Peter has not come to believe that Jesus’ death is the way to eternal life.  And because he doesn’t understand the nature of God’s salvation in Christ, there is no way he is going to suffer persecution for Jesus’ sake.  And because he does not understand, Peter submits to the same temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden and trusts in his own righteousness for life.    
Even our best intentions and our best work can lead us to follow a false narrative of salvation, a narrative that says salvation depends on what we do.  Sooner or later, this false narrative will catch up with us and leave us empty.  Sooner or later, we will get in the way of our own salvation.  Sooner or later, this false narrative will have us worshiping ourselves and our actions instead of the God who gives us salvation.    
Sooner or later, we will be confronted with the reality that it is impossible to be saved by human hands.  Nothing in this world, no organization, no political agenda, no lifestyle routine, no perfect observance of the law, none of that—no matter how good and wholesome—will lead us to salvation—even our best efforts will fail us.
I don’t mean to say that God can’t use non-profits and government and lifestyle trends to shed his light on the true narrative of salvation.  Rather, we must recognize that these temporary earthly solutions will eventually fail us and leave us wanting more. 
Churches die.  Churches change.  People die.  People change.  Communities die.  Communities change.  Political agendas fail.  The best football teams lose.  The way we acted in our 20s and 30s may not work in our 40s and 50s.  I hope you are starting to get the picture.  We live in a world that is passing away.  We live in a world where even good things pass away.       
But the good news says that God’s Word never passes away, God’s truth never dies.  Even if something or someone we love or depend on for life passes away, even if our best efforts fail us, even if that thing that used to work no longer works, there is good news because God’s eternal Word is always breathing life into something new; God’s Word is always giving us hope for a new beginning. 
Ultimately, the good news says that there is death and resurrection.  Salvation isn’t a self-improvement project.  Salvation isn’t earned through our good deeds or lost because of our bad deeds.  Rather, salvation is a death and resurrection project. 
Salvation is a process that involves repeatedly dying to the illusion that we can save ourselves and growing in the knowledge and love of God’s grace.  It is about recognizing failure and death not as a measure of our self-worth rather as a chance for the new life that God has already accomplished for us in Christ. 
Peter eventually came to understand the nature of God’s salvation but not before he witnessed death and resurrection.  The knowledge of salvation came after Peter saw Jesus go all the way to the cross and beyond to say, “I love you.”  Peter’s knowledge of salvation came after Jesus sought him ought to give him another chance at life.  On the beach Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”  Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
And from that moment forward, Peter’s life changed forever.  Peter certainly wasn’t perfect but he was free because life no longer depended on Peter.  Instead, his life was completely left to the mercy of God.  Peter’s quest for salvation was no longer the object of his living because God took care of that in Christ.  Instead, Peter’s life became a generous response to the free gift of salvation.
Peter was free to give up all that he had and follow the way of Christ.  Peter was free to be a “fool” for Christ because he knew in his very being that God’s Word was eternal truth.  Peter was free to accept persecution as a gift of following Jesus because he knew that love is stronger than death.  Peter received 100-fold in his new life in Christ.
During Stewardship Season, this is the point in the sermon when I am supposed to talk about how the giving of your money is a part of your spiritual health.  I am supposed to talk about how stewardship is a generous response to the free gift of salvation.  I am supposed to talk about when you give everything you have, you will receive 100-fold in your new life with Christ. 
Instead of giving you a prescription on how much money you should give to the Church or to the work of God, I want to ask you a couple of questions that might help you answer that question on your own.  Perhaps these questions are the best way I can help you see how Jesus is meeting you where you are in your particular context.
In your daily life, what or who do you depend on to get through the day?  What or who helps you endure the changes and chances of this life?  Where is God in all that?  Where does God want to be?  What do you need to know from God so that you can trust more and more that God’s ways are better than your ways?
          What kind of impact does the free gift of salvation have on your daily life?  What might God be calling you to give up so you may know more and more the gift of salvation? 
How does your living, your work, your leisure, your giving reflect how thankful you are for the gift of salvation?  What do you need from God to help you grow in generosity?    
          Friends, as you prayerfully consider these questions remember that Jesus is looking at you in love.  Remember that Jesus doesn’t expect you to have the correct answer in your pocket.  The only thing that Jesus really cares about is that you know how much you are loved.  
May you have the grace to really know God’s love for you through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son our Lord.  May you have the grace to grow in the knowledge of this love and live freely with Christ.  Amen.