Archive | November 2015

For All Those Women Preaching Out There

rev tiffany thomasI preached this sermon at the North Carolina Women’s Preaching Festival. It is part B of a duo preaching presentation in which my sister in Christ, Rev. Kara Slade (coincidentally the coolest Episcopalian Priest you will ever meet in life), gave part A. We followed the Lectionary text for the day and purposefully chose the Pauline Epistle to make the statement that female preachers can and do find liberating and affirming messages in Paul’s writings.

Bringing Up The Rear

I Corinthians 15:1-11

    1-2 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time— this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved. (I’m assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you’re in this for good and holding fast.)

    3-9 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.

    10-11 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven’t I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn’t amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it. So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it’s all the same: We spoke God’s truth and you entrusted your lives. (I Corinthians 15:1-11 MSG)

A woman preacher is a woman in trouble.

There is that troublesome God who plucks us from the simple linear life that we created for ourselves and calls us into ministry.

There are those troublesome insecurities, that voice that rings in our heads “who am I to stand in front of people and speak. I am nobody.”

There is that troublesome glass ceiling that women have been hurling stones at for generations but that pesky glass is strong and hard to crack.

There are those troublesome stereotypes. The covert and overt messages that say “if you are going to be a woman preacher you have to look a certain way. Talk a certain way. Stand a certain way. Be a certain way.”

And then. And then. And then

There are those troublesome voices who say again and again to women preachers that you do not belong in the pulpit, you do not belong in the episcopacy, you do not belong in leadership in the church. And if you think otherwise then you are are just being troublesome.

That’s why I love this text in I Corinthians 15. Because Paul here is the exemplary model for every preacher but I would argue his words here are an exemplary model for women preachers especially.


For a simple truth, a simple fact that we all know to be true about Paul: Paul was troublesome.

He preached the Gospel all over the Roman Empire. Without license, without approval, without permission. And he was constantly facing resistance from his fellow preachers.

“You little upstart, who do you think you are,” they would declare. “You don’t belong to our good ol’ boy preaching club. You are not an Apostle. Were you there to see Jesus walk on water? Did you see him feed the masses? Where you there when he died on the cross and revealed himself to us in the upper room?”

“Aha!” Paul replies here in this text. “It is just as you say. Jesus presented himself alive to Peter. To his disciples. To James and to many more.

And then. And then. And then.

he presented himself alive to me! to me! to me!

    It was fitting that I bring up the rear (I Corinthians 1:3-9 MSG).”

It was fitting that I, too, join this long legacy of Prophetic witness to the Holy Gospel.

He goes on to say that it was fitting not because he was so holy. Not because he was so worthy. Not because he had never made any mistakes. But because God is so gracious. And he says in the text “And I am not about to let his grace go to waste (I Corinthians 10-11 MSG).”

And so he responds I’m sorry if proclaiming the Message is so troublesome to you. I’m sorry if I cause you trouble. But you see, it’s not me it is the troublesome God who is in me. It is the troublesome God who has sent me. It is that troublesome God who presented himself alive to me.

And don’t you see that similar to Paul, a woman preacher is a woman in trouble.

Every time she lifts her voice to preach the Message

she is troubling the still waters of the Church.

She is troubling how things used to be.

She is troubling our understanding of I Timothy and Ephesians.

So it is incumbent upon all female preachers to, like Paul, stand boldly and declare

I know I am a lot of trouble.

But you have to understand that it is not me.

It is the God in me.

It is the God who sent me.

It is the God who presented himself alive to me.

It is exactly as scripture says, Jesus died for our sins.

It is exactly as scripture says, he was buried in the grave.

It is exactly as scripture says, he was raised from the dead.

And it is exactly as scripture says, Jesus revealed himself to Peter,

and James,

and Paul,

And me! And me! And me!

Because it is exactly as scripture says in Joel 2, ”I will pour out my Spirit on all people and your sons and your daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28).

And so it is fitting that I bring up the rear.

Not because I am so holy. Not because I am so special. Not because I have never made any mistakes. But because God is so gracious. And I am not about to let that grace go to waste.

And so I admonish you today, you women preachers, to own your space in the long legacy of prophetic witness to the Holy Gospel.

Do not be afraid to bring up the rear.

What does that mean? Ultimately, that means do not be afraid to be troublesome.

For a woman preacher is a woman in power.

A woman preacher is woman in strength.

A woman preacher is a woman in audacity.

A woman preacher is a woman in trouble.
Rev Tiffany Thomas
Bringing Up The Rear: For Those Troublesome Female Preachers

Even so, I am not giving up on you

I am sharing this blog because there is nothing more I can add except to say that we have NO IDEA how these refugees are suffering. Would even one of us leave the ‘comforts’ of our homes and families?

Thank you, Jim Love, for saying it so eloquently!

I saw your post on Facebook. The one where you were trying to get people to sign the petition to “stop the immigration”.

Wow. How do I respond to this?

Well, I guess I can say that I’m kind of glad it was you who sent it. If it had been some stranger, I would have just dismissed it as the ravings of some redneck asshole. Yup. That’s how unkind I would have been.

Which doesn’t say good things about me.

But because it was you I had to really think about how to respond. How can someone that I like, respect even, someone who I know would never wish harm to another – how can this person want to stand by and let innocent people, mothers and their children – starve in refugee camps or die at the hands of human smugglers?

Make no mistake, these people do die terrible deaths. Why? They are running from the same people who murdered the innocent civilians in Paris. They are bombed. They are terrorized. Some are rounded up and shot quickly. Those are the lucky ones.

Even in the areas supposedly under control of the “democratic governments” we in the west helped establish there is no safety.

Here’s a true story I heard from a former Toronto cop who trained police for the Iraqi forces.

Being an Iraqi police officer is often a short career. It’s a dangerous thing to do. But it pays a salary. Enough to keep your family from starving.

There are some alternative occupations. Suicide bomber is one. The guys who visited the man that the cop told me about promised to take care of his family for life. For life. All he had to do was to strap on a bomb and blow himself up. He said no – he’d rather take his chances as an Iraqi cop. And went off to the training camp.

Apparently, you aren’t allowed to say no when they ask you to be a suicide bomber. While he was in training to be a cop his wife and children were horribly murdered.

This is in the areas where there is some semblance of control. In the areas controlled by ISIS it gets worse. So they flee.

I don’t know who you think these people are, because outside of the fact that they speak a different language, many of them are pretty much like you and me. Or they were before the war. They ran small businesses. They worked in offices. They taught children. But there’s not a lot of teachers jobs in war zones. Go figure.

And the camps? Well I guess some of them make it to refugee camps. Why don’t they stay there? Some do. They “live” in these camps – the lucky ones – for years. In many of the camps there isn’t enough food or shelter. In some they have resources for about 500 calories a day for each person. You starve slowly on that amount of food. You watch your kids starve slowly as well. (By the way, as Canadians we throw out tons of food every day. But I digress.)

When they stay in these camps for year and year, with no hope do you wonder why some get recruited by the nice men who offer a career as soldiers or suicide bombers. When you abandon people to lives of no hope in squalid refugee camps, what are they supposed to do?

Surprisingly, the number that do become terrorists is very, very small. For these heroic people, many choose another option. Rather than starve slowly, live in a war zone or spend their remaining days hungry and lost in these camps, they run. Well, they walk mostly, taking what pitiful few possessions they can carry. Or they get on those boats.

Ah yes, the boats. I’m sure you’ve heard of the rickety boats that they go to sea in, hoping to make it to Europe. I know that you’ve read that many of those boats don’t make it. They are so overloaded, many capsize and the people drown. The smugglers don’t care. What’s a few more dead refugees, right?

Now, I’m not sure if you know what it’s like to die by drowning. The good news is – it doesn’t take that long. You die choking on water coming into your lungs but you only have about five to fifteen minutes to struggle hopelessly in the water. The bad news is that those five to fifteen minutes are horrific. It’s quite a terrible death. That’s why they use waterboarding as a torture. Even hardened warriors can’t endure even a few minutes of what its like to drown.

Of course you don’t always drown alone. Some drown trying to save their babies and young children, knowing they will fail. Sheer terror, painful death and knowing that your kids are dying and you can do nothing. Take a second and picture this. Just before you sign that petition.

You’ve got kids. Could you imagine dying in horrible pain while you know that you children are also dying in horribly and you can do nothing? If that’s not the definition of hell, I don’t know what is.

Again there are the lucky ones. Those ones survive and only get robbed once or twice. Some don’t lose all their life savings and have enough to try to get someone to smuggle them into another country. Some are like the folks that paid the smugglers to take them across Europe in a truck. They suffocated in the back of that truck, dying slowly over hours of suffering, clutching their kids and knowing that there was nothing they could do. Nothing.

Some of these folks have it relatively easy. Their boats don’t capsize. They don’t get in a truck. They just walk for hundreds of kilometers. Sure, some are robbed. Many are starving. As it gets to be winter in Europe – yes – they get winter there too – they shiver as they starve and freeze. Again, these are the really fortunate ones.

So why on earth would they do this? Why would they risk horrible, unspeakable torturous deaths, many helplessly dying with their babies in their arms?

Why? They are running from the same terrorists that we fear. They are running from the same group of people who killed a hundred or more people in Paris.

Every one of the people in Paris who died is a tragedy. That almost 150 died is earth shaking. You are mad because that happened? Me too. I’m furious. I am struggling to contain the rage inside me. I want someone to pay.

My problem? And where we differ? I don’t want some poor bastard whose only crime is that he or she picked the wrong place to be born to pay. I don’t want the mother who saw her husband shot to pay. I don’t want that Iraqi cop whose family were tortured and killed to pay. They’ve suffered enough.

And they continue to pay. The number of Parisians dead is the equivalent of one capsized boat. It doesn’t make the Parisians lives any less valuable. But the lives of the people who died in that truck are also valuable. By the time they found them they were mostly liquid rotting flesh.

These are the stories that make the news. Do we even know what kind of suffering happened to the people in all these unmarked graves they keep finding?

But it’s not the numbers that count. Every death is a tragedy. The people in Paris. The folks in that truck. The people who drown. The folks in those mass graves. The kids in that café in Paris. They are all innocent. And all of them are paying with their lives.

The trouble is – I can’t do a damn thing about the people in Paris. Except get mad. I can rage about it. I can cry. But I can’t change a damn thing.

I can help one person get out of those camps. We as a country can help thousands.

We’ve done it before. In the 1970’s – remember the recession and economic problems then? We took in 50,000 refugees or more – lots of them the “boat people”. We had a housing crisis at the time too. But we did it. Some people at that time said “we should take care of our own” first. Some said their North Vietnamese spies hidden in the refugees. We still took them in.

We did it in the 1950s too. Before our time. We took in an enormous number of Hungarian refugees. Again – it was a crappy time for Canada economically, but we still did the right thing. I’m sure someone talked about the commie spies that were hiding in the refugees. It was the cold war.

But we did the right thing not when it was easy – but when it was difficult. We did it when it was tough. Today, we’re all proud of what we did as a country. And those people we took in have gone on to make this a better country. Many have worked hard at menial jobs and raised families. Some of their kids are now in our parliament.

We have not always been so noble. This “ban immigration” sentiment has surfaced before. We said “none is too many”. We let them sit in the boats. We let them be taken back to Germany and the camps. That’s right. Canada sent Jews back to die in camps in Germany. It’s a historical fact.

When I think back on that, I’m not so proud.

I’m not prepared to let my country’s legacy be “none is too many.” I’m not prepared to sit idly by and let those people suffer.

So the short answer is no. I won’t be signing your petition. I couldn’t live with myself if I did.

And it would be tempting to just let this go by, but I can’t do that either.

All I can think about is that if some brave people before the second world war had stood up and said, no – we must let those people in – boatloads of Jews would have avoided the camps, torture and death.

I can’t change that. But I can oppose your idea – not you, but your idea. If I stand up and say no to this petition. If I oppose it with every fibre of my being maybe, just maybe – I might help one modern boat from being turned back.

And before you say it. Yes. Some terrorists might get in.

We’ll deal with that. These guys aren’t stupid. They’ll get in to our country anyway. Have you heard of the internet? They don’t have to come here to recruit white middle-class kids. Borders don’t matter anymore.
Thank god someone informs on the terrorists. How do you think our cops find and thwart the terrorists that are operating here now? They get information from the grateful people who don’t want to bring that hate, war and terrorism to this country. Loyal, grateful friends. They are our best defense.

So I can’t sign your petition. I have to oppose it with every fibre of my being. I have to do it for all these reasons and one more.

Here’s my last point. If I do sign and turn my back on these innocent people, knowingly let them suffer, then what have we become? Haven’t the terrorists already won? Haven’t we become just like they want us to be?

If I was going to make a recruiting poster for terrorism, the slogan would be – “they don’t give a damn about you. Why should you care about them?”

I won’t play their game. I won’t be consumed by fear and anger. I’ll be saddened because I’m human, but I won’t hate and I won’t fear. If we do, the terrorists win.

So, no thanks to your petition. I’d like to say I wish you success, but I don’t. All I will say is that if you change your mind, this door never shuts. I won’t hate you either. You will have to live with what you have and haven’t done.

I won’t give up to terror. I won’t give up trying to help the innocent victims of war. And through all of this – I won’t give up on you either.
Even so, I am not giving up on you

Be Thankful! And You Will Be Happy!!

(Matthew 6:25-34)

We are about to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. . . a time when we think about our  life situations and give thanks for what we have been given.

But for some of us, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Perhaps, we don’t have a  home, or a job or family close enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Or maybe those  Thanksgiving dinners are ruined by a drunk uncle, or angry teen-ager or disorderly kids or  siblings that we never talk to the rest of the year. That seems like something we don’t want to be grateful for.

Still, we are told to be grateful for what we have.

But, there is a danger in telling other people to be grateful for what they have. It doesn’t  acknowledge the parts of their lives that are difficult, the ways in which they’ve worked  hard, the obstacles they’ve overcome, the disadvantages they’ve been born with, the  suffering that they endure.

Few people find it easy to be told to be grateful for what they’ve had when they’re struggling to make ends meet, or they are homeless or suffering from illness.

It’s easy to forget gratitude. We’ve just been through yet another rancorous election cycle, where ordinarily kind and reasonable people hurled insults at one another through sneers and gritted teeth. We live in a world in which dangers lurk, ranging from the religious fanaticism of ISIS and Boko Haram to the devastation of Ebola. Just when we think we have made progress on issues of race, another young, unarmed black man is killed, causing resentments, prejudices, anger, and confusion to explode in destructive behavior. Just when we think our young people are being taught in virtue, Rolling Stone magazine runs a cover story on sexual assault of the most horrific kind in a fraternity house at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. It’s too easy to forget gratitude and lapse into despair.

So the question is: how do we give thanks even when we may not feel grateful?

You may be surprised to know that research studies have shown that if we are thankful, no matter how little, we are, in fact, happier.

Choosing to focus on good things makes us feel better than focusing on bad things. An ancient Greek philosopher said, “Happy people rejoice in what they have, and do not grieve for what they do not.”1 Being grateful – the art of being thankful – actually activates chemicals in our brains that fight depression!!!

So, amid all our fears and problems, how can we be thankful?

One way to begin to be grateful for the big and little things in your life is to start a “Thankful” List. We will find that we have much more to be thankful than just our material possessions. We are thankful for friends . . , places like In The Garden . . ., the fairly mild weather we have had so far. . ., a warm coat . . ., a delicious meal . . ., Columbus’ communities who provide shelter and food. The list could probably go on and on if you just think about it for a little while. . .

How about the fact that we do not live in a war-torn country, that we have the right to vote and elect representatives who reflect our political views? That we have the freedom to practice our religious beliefs or not attend religious services at all? That lots of churches and organizations serve a Thanksgiving dinner the entire week of Thanksgiving?

These are things that we can be grateful for, even if we sometimes don’t feel that way.

I suggest that everyone start a new routine: every morning when you get up, think about things that you are thankful for: start with that fact that you woke up, that another potentially wonderful day is ahead of you. If we do think about what the good things are, we will find that we are happier, and it makes the bad things much more bearable.

Let thankfulness become a part of your daily routine. Practice giving thanks to others. Count your blessings rather than complain. Make gratitude a daily routine, not just once each November, but all year long.

A fellow clergy told the story about when he worked for a county highway department during summer when he was in seminary. He filled potholes and scooped up roadkill; at the absolute bottom of the pecking order, doing tasks no one else would do. The only person lower than him was a man in his sixties named Elvin. By most standards, his life was pathetic. He never got beyond the third grade. His wife ran off with another man. His daughter was a teenage runaway. Elvin couldn’t read or write. He was the butt of all the jokes at the highway department. He was a tragic human being, except in one regard. Every day Elvin opened his lunch box and pulled out a bologna sandwich. Shutting his eyes, he prayed, “I thank you, O Lord, for this good bounty from your good earth.” Elvin didn’t have much to make him grateful. He had a meager job and some co-workers who constantly poked fun behind his back. He had a set of work clothes, a place to sleep, and an old crusty sandwich. It wasn’t very much. But every noon, he spoke a few simple words revealing a heart full of gratitude.2

If that man can find things in his life to be thankful for, then I think all of us can. Think about them daily and give thanks for them.

This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. And most of all, even if you normally do not pray, give thanks for the bounty you have. The prayer does not have to be eloquent or long, just heartfelt. Be thankful for what you have, lumps and all.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 22 November 2015
1 Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”
2 William G. Carter, No Box Seats In The Kingdom

All Will Be Well!

Mark 13:1-8

I had written another sermon last week since I was out-of-town at a training for the first of the week and then at Diocesan convention for the last two day. But in light of the events at Beirut, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Paris, I felt compelled to speak about those atrocities.

The abhorrent murder of 129 Parisians with hundreds injured, the double car bombing in Beirut, leaving 43 dead and over 230 injured, would make some people sure that the end of the world is near. The downing of the Russian passenger plane with over 224 innocent vacationers, for no reason except to create fear – does just that – create fear that our world is coming apart.

We grieve for the senseless killing of innocent people:

  • families and couples enjoying quiet dinner at a sidewalk café on a pleasant autumn evening;
  • young people crowded into a stadium to hear their favorite band;
  • people gathered in Shiite community hall, where gunmen kept citizens from providing aid to the injured;
  • and those on a plane looking forward to vacation.

Certainly those who look for signs of the apocalypse believe we are beginning that progression to the end of the world. However, I must remind you what we have been taught repeatedly – that we must stop interpreting the world events as milestones leading up to the end of the world. Jesus specifically warned us:

    “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Mark 13:7-8)

The massacres, hostage-taking and bombings in Beirut, Paris and Egypt certainly make all of us stop and think about what is going wrong in the world. . . how a group of zealots could willingly and randomly execute people who are innocent. ISIS, who has claimed responsibility for these atrocities, is a sub-culture of the Islamic faith which in no way represents the central teachings of Islam or the majority of the Muslims in the Middle East. Yet these are the people whose actions cause alarm.

We need to keep a level head on our shoulders and not overreact, lumping all Muslims in one basket. While it has portions of war and vengeance, just as the Bible does, the Qur’an is not a book of vengeance – it is a holy book that gives in great detail, the manner in which Muslims must live and care for the planet and all those who inhabit it.

In the aftermath of these tragedies, we need to remember what Jesus told his disciples, and is telling us:

    “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. (Mark 13:5-6)

We must not be lead astray by those who speak doom and gloom and the end of the world. We must not listen to the false prophets.

There have been millenniums where prophets have foretold the end of the earth. Do you remember all the fuss before Y2K, when the prophets were sure that the world was going to explode when we hit the year 2000? It was foretold that all the computers in the world were going to blow up and the world, as we know it, would end.

Notice how that didn’t happen? There was hardly a hint of problems!

Do you remember a fellow named Harold Camping, who was sure that Christ would return to earth on May 21, 2011? Feeding on people’s fatigue with natural disasters, wars and suffering, he riled up many fundamentalists and the ‘Left Behind’ people. Some sold everything they had, knowing for sure that they would be in Heaven on May 21st.

It didn’t happen!

Then there was the doomsday message generated when someone looked at the Mayan calendar and realized there were no dates after September 3, 2012. The fact that the 5,125 year Mayan calendar came to an end on September 3, 2012 didn’t mean the end of the world. It meant the end of the Mayan calendar.

The world did not end in 2012 – and it hasn’t happened yet!

We often hear of people who believe they know when the world is about to end. They look at what’s happening in the world and say “the end is near”. People point to the Bible and find images and passages that reinforce their point. It’s easy to do – it’s called proof texting – taking words right out of the Bible, adding them to other words from the Bible, and other authoritative statements that support whatever they want to support. It’s no way to read, or study, the Bible.

We have had wars for time immemorial. Do you think that the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon are twentieth-century events?

Oh, No!

About 15 years ago a group of academics and historians compiled some startling information. Since 3600 BC (that is 3600 years before Christ!), the world has known only 292 years of peace! During the past 5,600 years, there have been 14,351 wars/conflicts, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed.(1) Wars are not new. . . since Cain and Abel, men (and women) have fought to gain what they didn’t have, annihilate entire cultures, or ‘right a wrong’. The Old Testament is full of stories of bloody wars, sanctioned by God. But Jesus told us that

    “the end is still to come.” (Mark 13:7)

In this gospel from Mark Jesus was trying to tell the disciples of things to come. They have been in Jerusalem and seen the magnificent temple built by Herod. As you would imagine, most of these itinerant disciples were not familiar with large cities and the grandeur of massive buildings. The Temple must have been amazing. It was twice the size of the Roman Forum, with huge white stones – some as long as 70 feet and weighting as much as 100 tons. When viewed from a distance (from the Mount of Olives, where Jesus and his disciples were sitting), it glowed with plates of gold shining brilliantly in the Jerusalem sun. The disciples were impressed. I imagine their reaction was much like ours when we might have viewed the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome for the first time. They were in awe of the structure; probably thinking that this building would last forever.

For the Jews, the Temple was more than just a building in Jerusalem, more than a place of worship. It was the center and anchor of their life. It provided identity, structure, and meaning; for the Jewish people the Temple was God’s home.

But, as the disciples commented on the Temple in today’s scripture, Jesus replied:

    “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)

Yes, the Temple of Jerusalem in all its grandeur was indeed destroyed – except for one wall, the ‘Wailing Wall’ – that is a hallowed shrine for all Jews, and many Christians as well.

We need to remember that the book of Mark was written just about the time the Temple was destroyed. It was written for a community who was trying to figure out how to live between Jesus’ resurrection and his return (or the end of the world). Jesus was again speaking to his disciples, and to us, with an analogy. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world, but rather how to live when “all our worlds” collapse!

As the Franciscan monastic, Richard Rohr, teaches in his marvelous little book, Falling Upward, it is in crisis that we learn life’s greatest lessons. It is from disappointment and struggle that we learn what is truly important; it is in meeting failure and loss that we find the richest contents for our lives. It is at difficult times that we realize that our soul within is greater than any of our earthly bodies.

But we do want answers. We do want to know what’s going to happen next. Like the disciples, we want to know every detail about when and how our future will take place. The disciples hoped for a way to save themselves as they interpreted the signs of the time. . . and so do we.

So, how do we wait for the end of the world? So how do we live in the time between birth and death? How do we live in a time when chaos surrounds us? How do we live in a world that pulls us apart, rather than pulling us together?

First – Look around and see what we have, not what we don’t have.

We’re being sold false promises every day. ‘If we have a new car, a bigger house, a thinner body, a younger face, or a better job – life will be better.’ Likely, these are the false prophets that Jesus warned us about in our gospel of today:

    Jesus said: “They will deceive a lot of people.” (Mark 13:5-6)

And these are false prophets – they do deceive us. They make us fearful of what lies ahead. They make us unhappy with who we are; they let us allow other people to define and limit us. They make us see the death all around us rather than the life that remains.

But, God says,

    “Don’t be afraid, I will be with you forever”. (Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:39)

Secondly – Think about what you really value in life.

Ask yourself – “if I only had one more day to live what would I do?”

The end still hasn’t come, even after more than 2000 years.

Life still goes on. Good and bad happens. People are born, grow up and die, and the circle of life continues. In the meantime, we need not live in uncertainty, because:

  • no matter what happens,
  • no matter when it happens,
  • We are loved beyond measure.

We are the creations of a forgiving Creator. On this life’s journey, in joyous and difficult times, we are God’s own. We came from God and to God we shall return. No matter what happens, we can depend on love to see us through. The ‘end’ is not the end, but only the beginning.

We need to fill our lives with the love, forgiveness, compassion and beauty of God.

The mystic Julian of Norwich assured us:

    all shall be well, All manner of thing shall be well.

Jesus tells us that the end is just the beginning of what God has planned. God assures us:

    Behold, I shall make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

So, as the world seems to be colliding into chaos all around us, with evil, greed and meanness rampant at home and abroad, let our cooler heads prevail. Let us try to act in love and forgiveness while standing up for what is good and right, and let us always remember we are in the palm of God’s hand.

Let us be silent for a minute in memory of those who recently lost their lives . . . and for all who have been cruelly murdered by extremists.


And indeed, God said:

    I shall make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)


(1) “Statistics”,
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH, 15 November 2015

Tempest in a Coffee Cup

I could not have said it better:

starbucks red cup“I’ve found in life there are many, many things we become better people by having patience about. Crazy Christians who want to make a coffee cup a symbol of their “oppression” are not one of those things.

Color me flat out of patience with people so blind to their own entitlement that they see a Starbucks cup as a war on Christianity while black churches are being burned, Christians are fleeing for their lives in Pakistan, Syria and Sudan, and Muslims in this country live with the daily scourge of Islamophobia.

Religious persecution is a very real thing — a thing way too real to be diminished by this kind of foolishness. And if Christians who get that don’t speak out then the ones who don’t get it will speak for us.

So here’s my “final answer” on the Starbucks Cup Controversy as a priest, a pastor and a life-long fan of Christmas: It’s a cup. For coffee. And if you find yourself getting whipped up about it you might consider switching to decaf — and volunteering somewhere to work to address actual oppression. (I’ve got a list if you need it.)”
By The Rev Susan Russell
Tempest in a coffee cup