Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sermon for Jan 26, 2014; Matthew 4:12-5:12

Jan 26, 2014
Scripture: Matthew 4:12-5:12
Sermon Title: “Wounded Yet Wonderful”
Rev. George N. Miller

A few weeks ago I shared with you one of my favorite children’s books. Today I’ll share with you some words from one of my favorite novels: Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker.

It is about an African woman named Tashi who has experienced great suffering and has moved to America to start her life over. She is fiercely proud and protective of her adopted country and in one scene she is asked “What does an American look like?”

Tashi tries to describe various people: Raye, who is the color of certain seed pods with curly hair and freckles, not seen in Africa.

Or Amy Maxwell, with powdery skin tinged with yellow and pink, teased white hair and bony shoulders.

Or Eskimos with yellow skin or white men on the TV with hearty voices and fake warmth in their eyes.

No matter how hard she tries, Tashi can’t seem to pin down how to describe what an American looks like. She knows red women with black hair, brown people with blue eyes.

In Africa she could describe what a Massai or an Olinkan looked like, but neither height, skin tone or eye color can describe an American.

Then one day, Tashi realizes her answer:

“An American looks like a wounded person whose wound is hidden from others and sometimes from herself. An American looks like me.” (page 213)

I find this answer fascinating.

After years of providing pastoral care to a variety of people, there has emerged for me what can be called a “theology of wounded-ness.”

It has not been an easy theology to embrace; not one that many are aware of. It was not part of my upbringing.

As I child, I was not sheltered from the reality of death. I learned early on that everyone and everything dies. I was not coddled when I was sick; we still went to school or off to work.

I learned that hurts were to be ignored and not talked about; true strength is acting as though nothing bothers you.

That when bad things happen, that’s life.

How many others have learned the same thing, that we are not to dwell on pain or loss? We are to pretend things don’t bother us even when they do.

I wonder how many of us have learned, as Americans, to hide our wounds so they are hidden from others and hidden from ourselves.

How do we learn that? Who teaches us that? Who decided it was better to bottle our feelings up, as opposed to letting them out?

I guess part of it comes from our understanding of faith, or our misunderstanding, if you will.

We think that as Christians we’re called to always be strong, put on a smiling face, and believe that God has a plan so we shouldn’t complain.

That all things happen for a reason; that the Lord is our Rock. Therefore if we have faith we should never feel sad or become emotional jell-O.

…But yet it is our wounds that play a part in making us who we are. It is our hurts that create spaces for the Spirit to enter in and do its work.

It is during our times of weakness that God is able to step in and truly make us strong.

That it is by acknowledging our hurts that the Holy Trinity can bring us closer to healing and wholeness.

Take for example today’s reading. Matthew introduces us to the situation when vss. 12-13 state “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee…he left Nazareth…”

These words go by so quick that it’s easy for us not to notice, but let’s focus on the words used: Jesus withdrew to Galilee; Jesus left Nazareth.

Hear them from an emotional level.

Jesus’ peer, John the Baptist, the man who baptized him, has been handed over, put in prison, and Jesus withdraws.

Can we emotionally hear what is happening here?

The Gospel of Matthew shows the humanity of Jesus. It shows Jesus as being a human who can be tempted, who can make choices, who has his own inner turmoil.

Here we witness Jesus as a person who withdraws when something bad happens to someone in his life.

His peer has been betrayed, locked up, and what is Jesus’ very human reaction? To momentarily withdraw from the situation.

Have you ever done that? Just withdraw from something that hurt or scared you?

Have you ever had something happen to you or your family or your friends that just made you sad, mad, scared, that made you just want to run away?

Have you ever received some disturbing news and the first thing you do is separate yourself?

Maybe you immediately went to the store, got a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, came home and ate the whole container in one sitting?

Or maybe you just sat on the couch and zoned out while watching the Cooking Channel?

Or cooked an entire meal and then threw it out because you realized you weren’t hungry?

Maybe you withdrew by going into the garage or workbench to tinker around, or went hunting or fishing, not caring if you caught anything.

Or maybe you just lay in bed for a day or two or three without bothering to get up and take a shower. Have you ever done that?

Where you don’t bother answering the phone, checking e-mail, or responding to text-messages?

We all have and I believe Jesus did too.

We see this behavior happen a few times in his ministry where things are not going right and Jesus breaks away from the group to have some alone time.

So as Christians, what can this mean?

It can mean that as followers of Christ, when we are wounded, when we are hurt, when we are scared, we are allowed to go away in private and deal with our wounds.

That when someone we love is hurt, or hurts us, it is OK to separate ourselves from the situations and to try and figure out what it all means.

Good news for those who like Ben and Jerry’s, TV marathons and three days of not showering: “Me Time” is actually OK. It’s alright.

It doesn’t mean we are any less Christian, or our faith is weak, or that we have turned our back on God.

In fact, it can become a time in which we turn more towards God.

Everyone needs time and space to be by themselves. The important thing is to know when enough is enough and when it is time to return to society.

For each person that time line will be different because everyone hurts differently, everyone withdraws differently, but here’s the thing- eventually we emerge.

That eventually, after that time period is over, we throw away the empty ice cream containers, we open up the blinds, we discard the clothes we’ve been sleeping in, we take that shower and we reenter the world, wounded yet wonderful, scarred and healed, different and ready for change.

That’s what I believe Jesus did. Notice that in chapter 4:12 Jesus withdraws upon hearing that John has been arrested. But by verse 17 Jesus is ready to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, by verse 18 he is calling the first of his disciples, and by verse 23 he is teaching and healing.

By the time we get to chapter 5 Jesus is up on the mountain, surrounded by people, giving his infamous “Sermon on the Mount.”

What is the first lesson he teaches: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I’d like to suggest that Jesus has experienced his own moment of sadness, his own time of grief and fear, and he temporarily withdraws from it all.

When he emerges, he emerges ready to proclaim the good news, heal the masses and lead the disciples.

Could Jesus have done so if he hadn’t withdrawn, if he had pretended everything was O.K., if he acted as though things were fine, when they weren’t?

Perhaps he could have, but would he have been as effective?

Could Jesus have truthfully called those who are poor in spirit or those who mourn “blessed” if he himself did not experience what it is like to mourn?

The more I preach and teach about Jesus, the more I feel I learn about who Jesus is, the more I fall in love with him, and am glad to be a Christian.

Knowing that the gift of Christmas continues, even long after decorations are taken down and ornaments are put away.

Knowing that Emmanuel, God with Us, knows just what it is like to have loved, and what it is like to have lost.

That our Jesus knows what it is like to feel fear, worry, and temptation, perhaps even uncertainty, depression and loss.

That Jesus was not an unrealistic Superman or like Spock from Star Trek who could not understand the gamut of human emotion.

But that Jesus, as Matthew shows us, knew what it was like to be human, to experience the human condition, even when it meant wanting to run away, get away from it all.

Because that means we, as Christians, do not have to feel ashamed about our own hurt nor about our own wounds.

We do not have to hide our humanness or prove we are made of steel. We do not have to waste time and energy proving things are fine when they are not.

But that we, in our very humanness, can submit to those moments when all we want to do is run away, sit in our pajamas and eat Ben and Jerry’s while crying over what or who we have lost.

In Christ, we have that comfort and that rock, so that we can lean on him, so that when we are ready, we can get up, we can continue our faith journey and we can find blessedness even in mourning.

That a Christian can look like a wounded person and still be wonderful.

All thanks be to God who brings healing, for Jesus who knew what it’s like to have loved and lost and for the Spirit that empowers us to gird up our strength and to be renewed.

Amen and amen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sermon for Jan 19, 2014; John 2:1-12

Jan 19, 2014
John 2:1-12
“To the Brim”
Rev. George N. Miller

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, a day to remember a unique American who wasn’t a president, a politician or a movie star; he was simply a preacher; a man with a dream in which all of God’s children are free.

When Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat, he seized that moment to speak up and to say “There comes a time when people get tired of being kicked about.” He held meetings, he spoke out and he led peaceful protests against segregation.

In ‘63 he led the March on Washington where 200,000 people gathered, and heard him give the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

That speech and his dream helped to bring about change.

Dr. King did great things, but he did not do them alone. Thousands of people, from all walks of life, supported his dream and were willing to work towards it in their own forms of participation.

And for the most part they weren’t extraordinary people, but ordinary folk. They were the maids, the janitors, the wait staff, and laundresses; they were the garbage men, the porters, the cooks, the caretakers.

Dr. King, as affective as he was, would not have been successful if it wasn’t for all the people who joined in, supported his dream and did something about it.

It takes one person to dream the difference, but it takes many people to make that difference happen.

We see that in today’s Scripture reading.

Great story, isn’t it? Don’t you love knowing that Jesus is at a party and having a good time?

In Jesus’ day weddings were a large celebration that typically lasted seven days, and wine was symbolic of joy, so it’s a little sad when the wine runs out. No one likes that to happen; no one was ready to go home.

So Jesus did something about it, and in doing so he pointed towards the extravagant abundance that exists in our Father’s Kingdom…and they had such a good time, they’re still talking about that party today.

But here’s the thing: as incredible as the miracle is, Jesus could not have done it alone.

Just like it took a whole lotta people to bring Dr. King’s dream to life, it took a whole lotta people to make this miracle of water into wine come to be.

Sometimes when we think of a miracle, we think of it as something that usually just happens, but if you pay attention to the stories in the Bible we see that’s not always the case: biblical miracles often involve human participation.

God wants to bless Abraham and Sarah but first they have to pack up and move. God is prepared to save the Israelites but first Moses has to place his hand over the waters.

The miracle at Canna is no different.

There’s a party. Folk are eating, drinking, dancing.

Servants milling about. Who are they, these servants? What do they look like? What’s their religion; their ethnic make-up? How much are they being paid to cater this plush affair?

Suddenly, the wine is out. What to do?

Not to worry, Jesus is there with his mother. It is she who gets the ball rolling, in the subtle manner in which Moms can get things done: “They have no wine.”

Jesus’ response makes him sound like a spoiled brat: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”

Maybe Jesus thought she’d drop the topic. But we know mothers. She tells the servants “Do what he tells you.”

Which they do!

Jesus tells them to fill up the 6 jars with water. But these aren’t just any jars, mind you. These are jars that hold 20-30 gallons of water each.

Do you realize how much water that is?

And it wasn’t easy to get the water; it’s not like they had a garden hose or kitchen sink. They had to get it from the well or a cistern. Some wells were located 100 feet underground, meaning a person would have to walk down 5 flights of stairs to get the water, then 5 flights back up.

To fill 6 jars with 180 gallons of water takes a lot of work and a lot of walking back and forth, carrying smaller jugs of water on one’s shoulders, on one’s head.

Who gets the water? The servants; and they don’t just fill up the jars, no: they fill them up to the brim.

And what about the people at the party? What did they do as they waited for more wine?

If it had been a college kegger they’d be gone. But these people must have been patient; for some reason they were willing to stick around.

When the servants are done, Jesus tells them to take some to the head butler; by now it has turned into wine, and the butler congratulates the groom for keeping the best for last.

The disciples observe all that happens and they believe, following Jesus to the next town.

This is a story that is about scarcity; it is also a story about abundance. This is a story about loss, but it is also about gain. This is a story about complete emptiness, but it is about being filled to the brim.

It is a story about how, in Jesus, God has given us enough.

There is a need. A social emergency if you will: no more. We ran out, finished, fine, kaput!

But God, in Jesus, is present.

But God isn’t just going to act. No, it takes Jesus’ mother to prod him into action. She is persistent and willing to believe that Jesus will bring about change, and she speaks his actions into being.

Mind you, his mother doesn’t know what Jesus is going to do, she just knows and is willing to believe that he will do something. She petitions and Jesus acts.

But do we actually see what Jesus does?

We don’t hear of how the water turns into wine. We aren’t told if he waved a hand or said a word or wished it to be true. But whatever it was, the servants heard the instructions and carried them through.

And who were the servants?

They weren’t presidents or politicians or movie stars. They were just like you and I, everyday folk, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, working hard to make an honest day’s wage.

If the servants had said “No way, bud, sorry,” Jesus would have been left standing there and there would be no wine.

So…there is a need. God is in the midst. Jesus’ mother makes the petition, instructions come, and the people go about doing the work, going above and beyond, filling the jars to the brim.

Next, the steward tastes the wine and proclaims the good news to the groom. And the disciples? Well they believe and follow Jesus into the next stage of his ministry.

This story teaches us many things. One: that God does indeed work miracles. Two: miracles often happen through the hard work of God’s people. Three: it takes someone to proclaim the miracle and make it known. Four: miracles prompt faithfulness.

Am I amazed that water turned into wine? No, that’s God.

What amazes me is that people were willing and able to put in the work required for it to happen.

I am blown away by the audacity of Mary to speak to Jesus the way she does. Yes, she is his mother, but he’s also the son of God.

She has no problem making it clear what is needed, and when he basically says “leave me alone” she refuses to take that as a final answer; instead she sets the wheels in motion for the miracle of abundance to happen.

From Mary we learn the importance of diligence, and persistence.

From the servants we learn about trust and the willingness to do hard work, and that it takes ordinary folk to make extraordinary things happen.

From the party goers, we learn patience. From the steward we learn proclamation. From the disciples we learn to believe and to follow.

This story reveals to us so much about God’s love and God’s ways: that God is willing and waiting to break into our world, but it takes more than just God being there.

So the question we ask ourselves is, where do we each fit in to today’s story?

Who here is like Mary, willing to see a need and is willing to pursue God until that need is met?

Who is like the servants, willing to do all the work that is necessary for God’s love to be made known?

Who is like the partygoers, willing to be patient, able to sit out a dry patch trusting that at any moment fresh wine will be flowing?

Who is like the steward: willing to proclaim the good news so that all can know?

And who are like the disciples: willing to believe and to follow Jesus into the next chapter, the next opportunity?

The miracle of water into wine is a great story, but nothing would have happened if the people at the wedding didn’t do something to make it so.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a mighty man, but he and the Civil Rights Movement would not have accomplished all they had if it wasn’t for all the people working together, willing to believe, and to move as one.

Miracles happen every day because Christ is always in our midst, ready to reveal God’s abundant love.

It is often through the work of everyday folk like you and I that God will do the most extraordinary things, sharing the KINGDOM’S extravagant welcome.

It takes one person to dream the difference, but it takes many people to make that difference happen.

We all have the gifts and the ability to welcome in new wine, and we all have the ability to act in a faith that goes all the way to the brim.

May we all find God in the simplest of things today, may we find Jesus sitting at our table and may we find the Spirit making all things abundantly new.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sermon for Jan 12, 2014; Psalm 29 & Matthew 3:13-17

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 29 & Matthew 3:13-17
Jan 12, 2014

As we ended 2013 and begun 2014 we talked about various topics: letting go of the ornaments that cause us pain, the reality that we are not the light, but reflections of the light, and last week we were encouraged to share our spiritual bouquets with the community around us.

Today we talk about the complexity of how we envision and experience God.

To do so, we start from the very beginning. I’m not sure how many people realize this, but there are at least 2 creation stories in the Bible. It’s true: you can turn to Genesis 1 & 2 and see for yourself.

Genesis 1 starts off with the notion of God being far away and completely other. A wind from God sweeps over the waters and God says “Let there be light,” and it is so.
God creates by speaking, like a king who gives an edict that is followed.

In Genesis 1, creation occurs in this order: there is night and day, there is sky, there is land, and sea. Then there is vegetation and fruit trees. Then God speaks and there are stars, sun and moon.

God speaks again and there are sea creatures and birds. Next are wild animals of every kind. Then, after all else is created, God makes humanity, giving us dominion over all.

In Genesis 1 God is magnificent and far away. Then…we have Genesis 2. God is more like a master gardener. There are no plants or rain from the sky, only a stream that would rise from the earth and water the ground.

The first thing God does? Forms man from the dust, breathing life into our nostrils. Instead of giving a kingly edict, God is close by, an artist who works with his own hands.

Then, after man is created, God plants a garden with every tree that is pleasant to look at and a river that runs through it.

Once God realizes it’s not good for man to be alone, then God creates, out of the ground, every creature of the land and bird of the air. Then perhaps the pinnacle of creation: God creates woman, and God walks in the garden in the evening breeze.

Two different creation stories that not only contain different chronologies, but also feature two different ways of creating as well as two different images of God.

Genesis 1 features God as a king who is above it all, who speaks and it happens, and is a bit impersonal.

Genesis 2 features God as an involved artisan, a personable potter who gets his hands dirty and strolls amongst creation.

These two creation stories have existed side by side for millennia. There is no way around it: they tell completely different stories, they give completely different images of God and though we can debate their facts…we can appreciate and embrace their truths.

There is a world of difference between something being a fact and something being true. There is a world of difference between the world being seen in only blacks and whites, or in the world being seen in shades of grey.

And the Bible doesn’t give us just one image of God, it gives us many. The Bible isn’t filled with just one kind of deliverance story; it is filled with many deliverance stories.

Who is God? How does God act? Exodus has God speak from a burning bush and parting the Red Sea.

But then in 1 Kings 19, God acts through sheer silence and the hushed whisper of a still speaking voice.

As Americans we tend to like things one way or the other, but we discover that’s not how the Bible portrays God.

As we just heard in today’s readings, Psalm 29 features that majestic, loud and lordly aspect of God: a voice over the waters that is powerful enough to break cedars and make mountains skip like calves.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth like fire and shakes the wilderness to its core; the oaks are in a whirlwind and the forests are stripped bare.

This is a mighty image that can empower one if they are about to embark on a journey or wage a war. But it can be a scary image for anyone who has withstood a natural disaster and knows what happens when the earth shakes and trees come crashing down.

Then…we have this image of a quieter, subdued, personal God in Matthew 3. Jesus goes to be baptized, and as he emerges from the waters, the heavens are opened and he sees the Spirit of God, descending like a dove. A voice says “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

If read one way, the story of Jesus’ baptism can be seen as gentle, even quaint. The heavens opened, but we don’t know what that means. Was it like soft, billowy clouds coming apart like pieces of sweet cotton candy, or being torn in two like a garment?

And a dove; so nice, so gentle, so full of peace…so different from a bald eagle that comes swooping down with talons extended ready to snatch up its prey.

And a voice that says “I am pleased.” A very different version of God then Psalm 29.

If the images of that psalm had been applied there would’ve been thunder and waves the moment Jesus entered the waters of baptism.

Not only would the heavens have parted, but we would have had flashes of thunder and the earth shaking. As the voice said “Behold this is my Son” we would have had oak trees and cedars whirling about.

But we don’t. Instead…we have a dove, the sign of peace, gentleness and purity, fluttering down and alighting on Jesus.

Here is the dichotomy of Christian faith; our ability to hold various truths together; the challenge not to see our God and Savior in black or white, but to see and to welcome the spectrum of all shades.

John wondered why Jesus felt the need to be baptized. Scholars have been wondering the same thing. Was it so Jesus could lead by example? Was it so Jesus could stand in eternal solidarity with us? Could it be that Jesus… just wanted to?

Again, in Jesus, we see the complexity and the simplicity that comes with our faith.

We say that if we want to know who God really is, all we have to do is look towards Jesus and we will know.

So we look to Jesus and see the complexity and the simplicity that exists within God.

We call Christ King, but then…we state that Jesus was born not in a palace but a manger to two poor peasants.

We call Christ Lord, but then… tradition teaches us that Jesus spent a good part of his life as an artisan, a carpenter.

We claim Christ to be without sin, but then… Jesus spent his life fellowshipping with and being surrounded by the dregs of society.

We claim Christ to be gentle, meek and mild…but then John the Baptist prepares the way for someone who is to be more powerful, who will baptize with fire, and someone who will clear the threshing floor with a winnowing fork.

We proclaim Christ to be the one who is resurrected…but then in order to do so we also have to proclaim the shame that Jesus died crucified.

We are Christians, believers in God, followers of Christ, bestowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In 2014 let us proceed forward, knowing we may not have all the answers, realizing that no one can ever grasp the full picture, knowing that there is not just one side, one trait, one view of the Holy Trinity.

We have a spectrum of realities.

That God speaks loud…but then God also speaks soft.

That God is mighty as a king…but then God is also meek as a servant.

That God may descend upon the waters like an eagle seeking prey…but then God may also alight on us like a dove.

That God can be found in the tambourines of a Pentecostal church…but then God can also be found in the hushed silence of a Quaker meeting.

God may rip apart the skies like a rigid piece of paper or God may part the clouds like a soft piece of cotton candy at the state fair.

And it’s all good, because it’s all God.

We just have to continue to discern, to look, to see and to listen.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sermon for Jan 5, 2014; Matthew 2:1-12

Jan 5, 2014
Matthew 2:1-12
“Flowering Gifts”
Rev. George N. Miller

(Sermon starts with a reading of the Golden Book Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street while the pages are displayed on the overhead screens)

Today is Epiphany Sunday in which we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the gentile world via the arrival of Magi bearing gifts.

This means the 12 days of Christmas has neared its end. The time for receiving and giving gifts is over. But before we officially say goodbye to Christmas, we have this one last story to share.

You may be asking “What does Big Bird have to do with the Magi?” Trust me: it does.

As we know, each of the Gospel writers has their own view of Jesus and their own agenda to share. Matthew highly valued the role of church, specifically the church’s acts of service.

For Matthew everything boils down to the care of others as the heart of God’s will for us. For him, the church is not a place that does outreach every now and then, the church is outreach.

Matthew’s Gospel is not so much concerned about grace or righteousness; it’s more interested in what people do. The author doesn’t want to hear you say you love Jesus: he wants to see your love for Jesus through your actions.

Love of neighbor is the litmus test for our love of God. We hear this in chapter 25 when Jesus teaches that whenever we give someone clothes or food, whenever we visit someone or care for a person who’s ill, we are actually caring for Christ.

Or in the case of Big Bird, when you give a flower to someone, you are giving a flower to Christ.

Matthew sees it as that simple.

So it’s fitting that of all the gospels, Matthew is the only one to tell us the story of the Magi who bring gifts to the Christ child.

They are also the first people to have a speaking part in the Gospel: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews... we have come to pay him homage.”

A perfect summation of Matthew’s gospel: where is Christ so we can give him our gifts? The rest of the book is devoted to showing us how.

On Christmas Eve we were encouraged to symbolically take down the ornaments in our lives that are weighing us down. Last Sunday we were reminded that we’re not the candle, but the mirror that reflects the candle’s light.

Today we are asked: how can we symbolically share our flowers with Christ?

We all have our own bouquet of flowers, our own assortment of talents and gifts that come in an assortment of sizes, shapes and smells.

For some, the flowers they share come through the means of finances and giving to causes they care about.

For others their flowers are acts of advocacy; petals that come in the forms of letters to the editor, local politicians, and participation in public demonstrations.

Other people’s flowers may be their presence: their ability to be with those in need, to visit, to talk with, pray for, and perhaps most importantly, to listen.

Other’s have flowers they offer through crocheted hats and prayer blankets. Other’s offer flowers that contain the sweet scent of home cooked meals and donated items to the Shepherd’s Pantry.

Others offer flowers of the fixing, lifting, mending and moving kind, while others do their best work behind a desk, at a computer or on the phone.

Just as there are many people in our congregation, there are many flowers that we have, flowers waiting to be shared with the community around.

Matthew’s Gospel calls the church to be church by serving others, and it is not always easy.

It can be downright hard.

It requires time, the ability to go outside oneself and be vulnerable, the ability to be like Big Bird and freely give away what you hold dear and desire for yourself.

And yet… sometimes it is in the sharing of our flowers that we get to actually appreciate their beauty.

During these 12 Days of Christmas we have been asked to let go of that which holds us back. We have been reminded that we are not the light, but reflections of the light.

Now, we can start the New Year just like the Magi, asking “Where will Jesus be?”

Instead of waiting for people to come to us bearing gifts, we can go out into the world sharing ours. We can step outside of our nest and share our roses, our carnations and purple iris.

In Christ, we get to be our own kind of Big Bird who can bring spring to others.

And when we do, can look up and down the street and see that we have helped to bring beauty, color and light to this little part of the world.

Thanks be to God who helps us remove the unneeded ornaments from our lives, for Christ who is the Living Candle and for the Holy Spirit who leads us to those we can share our flowers with.

Amen and amen.