Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pastoral Thoughts on the Emanuel Murders

What follows is an e-mail I sent to my congregation on June 20, 2015 in response to the murders at Emanuel in S.C.

Dear Emmanuel U.C.C. Community,

The country is rocked by the shooting at Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church, known as "Mama Emanuel." While people immediately took to Facebook to post opinions, turned to media to find answers and intensified conversations about racism, gun control, flags etc, I have been faithfully quiet, trying to digest it all.

When events like that at Emanuel take place, I am not shocked. Perhaps it's because I'm the son of a NYPD cop. Perhaps it's because I'm well-too aware of what takes place in the world: a gay friend who was attacked with a pipe on his way to a nightclub, black friends who were pulled over by cops as they were riding their bike, the daily anti-Muslim comments I hear/read, people who cautioned me about moving to the south because it's the "Bible-belt" and I may not be safe.

Yet, the truth is that we are living in the safest, most peaceful time in human history. It doesn't feel that way, because the media and Internet are able to immediately report upon all things at all places. So when bad things happen, they make the news.

When horrible events like that at Mama Emanuel take place, I am not so much shocked, but actually surprised that they don't happen more often. Here's why- humans are capable of doing the most horrible, heinous things we could ever think of. The fact that we don't, all the time, is something to be celebrated, because the truth is that anyone, at anytime can recreate what took place in South Carolina, or Sandy Hook or Oklahoma

We could live in fear; or we can live. When you see photos of me and my friends Tonya and Travis out and about in Sebring, we may be smiling, but we are also well aware that 50-100 years ago us being seen in together in public would not have happened. We also know there is always the possibility that we could be hurt. But we go out anyway.

In regards to the shooting at Emanuel, I believe there is a complexity of issues all interwoven.

Upon learning a bit more about the shooter, Dylan Root, it is apparent that he is someone living with the reality of mental illness. Mental illness is a topic we as a society have yet to fully discuss or understand, even though it affects almost every family.

I believe Root's mental. illness manifested itself in extreme prejudice and hate for the black community. So much so that it led him to plan out and carry through his race-based act of specifically going into a well known, historical black church and attacking the members there.

A wounded man who further inflicted wounds upon others. I'm not trying to justify or make excuses, but to talk about the complexity taking place.

How could he do it? Why would he do it? Are there answers? What's the solution to all the problems we as a nation are facing? Is it as simple as taking down a Confederate flag? Is it as simple as removing all guns? Is it as simple as talking about the reality of prejudice, racism and hate that exists in our country? Is it as simple talking about mental illness? Is it as simple as saying that if we hold a vigil and sing "Give Peace a Chance" that everything will get better?

It is not that simple. And there will be so much for us to talk about, to learn, to open ourselves up to, and to be honest about.

But for now, let us stand with the members of "Mama Emanuel" who have lost their religious leader and so many others; let us stand with the Charleston and national community that is dealing with shock, grief, fear, anger, numbness, rage, worry, hopelessness etc.

Let us continue to love one another and to hear the voice of those who are hurting.

Let us continue to seek out the wisdom of God, compassion of Christ and the healing of the Holy Spirit try to figure out what this all means and how can our nation heal before it gets worse.

In Christ; in love, Pastor George

God's Radical Love: More Powerful than fear, hate; Acts 8:26-40

June 21, 2015
Acts 8:26-40
Rev. George N. Miller

First John 4:7 states “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”

How simple, how elegant.

Last Monday at my gym’s cardio-theater, they were showing the movie “Interstellar,” a science-fiction film about a father’s relationship with his daughter.

Set in the future, the characters are living in an era in which the Earth has stopped producing food, so they’re in search for new planets to inhabit.

The Father is selected to pilot a spacecraft to one of those planets, and is reluctant because he doesn’t want to leave his beloved child behind.

However, if he does not go on this mission, his daughter, and her entire generation, will all die off.

The dilemma he faces is: abandon the daughter he loves so that she may live, or stay with the daughter he loves but she will eventually die a painful death.

No choice a parent would want to make.

The course of the film follows the father’s decision and becomes a metaphysical, cinematic exploration on the theme of parental love.

How love is able to transcend distance and space, how love is more powerful than hellos and goodbyes, gravity and light, and how love can even transcend time: the past and future, the now and the soon-to-be.

“Interstellar” is a perfect film for Father’s Day.

Going back to 1 John 4, it further states: “Everyone who loves is born of God…since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another...”

The logic is so clear: love because God loves.

Love, perhaps the most powerful force on earth.

How unfortunate is the life of one who does not experience love from family, friend, soul-mate or self.

Father’s Day is a good day to talk about love. I already shared with you my personal experience of having a father who loved me unconditionally, no matter who I was or where I was on my journey.

Today we celebrate the men in our lives, not just those who are biological fathers. We celebrate those who are positive role models, those who look after others, and even those who may have made some mistakes but are finding ways to work through them.

Of course, we cannot talk about fathers without talking about the Father: God.

Our Eternal Parent who gave us breathe, gave us a world to live in, gave us boundaries to live a healthy life, and gave us a brother in Jesus Christ in which we are all adopted in.

In today’s reading we get a larger glimpse into just how radical and inclusive the love of God, our Holy Papa is, as revealed through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 8 we see how God’s love transcends space and time; we see how God’s love is powerful enough to adopt someone who is so completely outside the frays of society.

In this part of the narrative, the early church is beginning to form. The disciples are like balloons filled with the Holy Spirit.

They are busy, busy, busy preaching, teaching, healing. Philip discerns the Lord saying to get up and go towards the south, on a wilderness road that’s out of town.

He’s lead to an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Scripture in his chariot.

Now, there are a few things you need to know.

Whenever we hear the word dessert or wilderness, we should automatically think barren, lonely, and isolated.

Being in the wilderness is meant to sound bleak, however scripturally it is often in the wilderness that one experiences God: Moses before the burning bush; the Israelites as they travel to the Promised Land.

The man is from Ethiopia, a place so far, far away that people literally thought it was the end of the earth, and if you went any further you’d fall off.

He was an Ethiopian, which meant he was black. Not black as in brown, or light skinned, but black as in he was so black he was blue. So he looked much different than Philip.

And he was a eunuch; a human Ken doll if you will. He was a castrated male, unable to have children; deviant and incomplete.

Jewish law was clear: Deuteronomy 23 states that eunuchs were not allowed to enter the Temple, nor could they be part of the religious community.

But yet here is a man who so clearly wants to know and have a relationship with Papa God that he rides a far distance to worship the Lord.

He even pulls over to the side of the barren road to read scripture. That would be like driving to Sarasota on 64 and pulling over to read the Bible.

That’s how much the Eunuch wanted to be accepted into the family of Papa God.

The Spirit leads Philip to him and not only does Philip welcome the Eunuch, he runs towards him, gets in the chariot and sits beside him, engaging him in face-to-face conversation about faith.

To understand how radical Philip’s actions are, to understand how radically inclusive this story is-

Imagine if this took place during 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama and Philip sat next to Rosa Parks in the front of the bus.

Imagine if this was 2015, Caitlyn Jenner is shooting the cover of Vanity Fair and Philip came up to her in-between shots.

Imagine you on the lowest day of your life, when you felt the most alone, broken and ashamed of something you had done, and Philip finding you to say “You are not cut off from the family of God; in Jesus Christ you are welcome to it.”…

The story of the Eunuch is good news because in many ways he represents us; he represents anyone who’s ever felt disenfranchised or exiled, or who was told they are unworthy of God’s love.

The eunuch represents us when we feel like we won’t be welcome because of how we look, how we’re dressed, because of our race, our financial situation, because of our age, or because our bodies (our legs, our hands, our eyes, our bladders) no longer act the way they use to act.

To which we learn that God is love and the Good News that we are adopted in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The eunuch represents us on those days when we feel too riddled with guilt, shame and feelings of worthlessness.

Or those days where you feel like you don’t know enough Scripture, enough songs, enough theology to call yourself a Christian.

To which we learn God is love and the Good News that we are adopted in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit…

…1 John tells us love is from God and God is love. And in Acts 8 we get to experience just how radical and inclusive that love is.

That the love of our Father is a love that’s grand enough and abundant enough to include everybody, everywhere.

Feel like you live on the outskirt of society? Papa God loves you.

Feel like you’ve spent all your life searching and seeking for something you have yet to find? Papa God loves you.

Feel like you can never be accepted for what you are, or perhaps what you’ve become because of situations? Papa God loves you.

Excluded from a community unwilling to offer you acceptance? Papa God loves you.

After all, God does not see as we see. God knows more than we can ever know. God is more forgiving than we ourselves could ever hope to be.

God is filled with limitless love that transcends distance and space, love that is more powerful than hellos and goodbyes, love that is stronger than gravity and light, love that can transcend time: the past and future, the now and the soon-to-be.

Like a faithful father who loves all his children equally, God loves us all, and through the works of the Holy Spirit and the experience of Christ, borders are erased and the lost, the lonely and the broken are called back home.

Love is from God, God is love.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sermon for June 14, 2015; 1 Sam 16:1-13

Rev. George N. Miller
1 Samuel 16:1-13
June 14, 2015

Summer is here, and with it the afternoon storms, the gnats that hover by doors, and plenty of opportunity for folk to complain about the heat.

One of the many things I do love about summer is that Vacation Bible School is right around the corner.

Christian Ed, under the guidance and imagination of Joanne, is busy, busy, busy preparing for this season’s selection, based around the theme “Praying with Jesus.”

Makes me a bit nostalgic for the 1st VBS I was part of, back in 2006. We called it Little Star Vacation Bible School. And it was an endeavor.

Not having offered one before, we went big: a 2 week program, 7 hours a day, five days a week, serving 3 meals a day, averaging 9 children a day.

Like here, we had children ages 4 to 12, black, white, Hispanic and mixed, reading, worshiping, playing and learning God’s Word.

The first week was a great week, a busy week, an invigorating week; an exhausting week. We entered the 2nd week saying “What where we thinking.” Are by the end we were tired. Capital T-I-R-E-D. Tired.

But for a group of 1st timers, we enjoyed working with the children. Just like here, there was a synergy present. We sang songs, did projects, discovered how the stories of the Bible fit together.

And I received fresh insight into scriptures, because as often the case, it is the adults who end up learning from the children.

Each child brought their own gifts. There was the athletic one, the spiritual one, the intellectual one, the sensitive one, the artistic one, and the dancer.

There were two boys who started Bible School quiet and reserved. Both had been raised in a household in which they were the only boy, surrounded by sisters; neither had been in a school setting for too long.

By the end of the 1st week, they bonded like brothers, finding in one another a playmate they could race and crash toy cars with, put together puzzles and chase around trees.

Quiet and shy no more, they become boisterous, vocal and playful.

It reaffirmed to me that you can’t always know by looking at someone what you are going to get or what you can expect.

You can make your assumptions, you can guess really hard. Sometimes you’ll be right; sometimes you can be 100% off base.

And often times we fail to see as God sees.

That’s what we catch a glimpse of in today’s reading.

First- some back story. Originally God did not plan for God’s people to have a human king. God wanted to be their king.

That was what made Israel so unique. They were people who were united not by race or economics or politics but by their relationship with God and the covenant God had made with them.

The Israelites were not a nation in the classic sense: they were a people. God was their King and God spoke to the people through priests and judges.

At the time of this story, Samuel was the last of the priests, but he was getting older, so the people demand a king.

This made God unhappy.

But the people looked around and saw that every other nation had a king. They didn’t want to be unique- they wanted to be just like everyone else.

So they asked Samuel for a King to govern them.

But God says to him “Sam, buddy, don’t take this so personal. It’s not you they’re rejecting-it’s me. And I’m not surprised because this is what they do.

“Even when I freed them from Pharaoh and parted the sea, they still turned their back on me and worshipped a golden cow. Can you believe that- a cow?”

“So Sam, dear Sam- listen to them, give them what they want.

So under God’s guidance, Samuel anoints Saul as King. Saul is tall, good looking and impresses the heck out of everyone, winning his first few wars. But soon Saul begins to do only what Saul wants to do, blatantly disobeying God.

When this happens, Samuel has the unfortunate job of going to Saul to let him know he blew it, and that he has lost his position of King.

Samuel is saddened by the turn of events, and God has divine regret over the choice of Saul. After a period of mourning passes, God sends Samuel out to anoint the next king.

Where will the new king come from?

Perhaps a place like Massachusetts. What large, metropolitan city will he dwell? Perhaps a place like Boston. What family will he be a part of? Perhaps one like the Kennedys.

Nope, nope and nope.

Samuel goes to Bethlehem, a little do-hicky of a town, and visits the unknown family of Jesse the sheep-herder.

The equivalent of going to Lorida and stopping at that store that has a sign saying it sells Gulf shrimp but you never see any cars in the parking lot.

So this is where God will find the next king? Is this a cruel joke, or a divine teaching of how God does things in God’s way?

As if this story is far-out there enough, the choice of a king involves a male beauty pageant in which, one by one each of Jesse’s boys strut their stuff down the runway in front of Samuel.

First is Eliab, the oldest son who is incredibly handsome. Naturally Samuel assumes he must be the new king. But God says “Na-ah. You’re looking at appearances; I’m looking at the heart.”

Brother after brother walk past Samuel; seven sons strut their stuff and they all fail to be the one.

Then, Samuel asks the father, “Are you sure I’ve seen all your sons?”

“Well,” says Jesse, “There is an eighth boy, the youngest. He’s out in the field with the sheep.”

“Well, bring him here,” Samuel says.

In comes young David, reddish-brown from being in the sun, and God says “That’s it! He’s the one. Stand up and anoint him.”

Interesting, entertaining story, no?

One that seems to simply show us that God does not see the way we see, that God does not do things the way we would expect, and that God sees us much differently than others do.

In our eyes, Jesse’s 1st born son with the JFK good looks should have been king.

But it’s David, the eighth son, who was chosen.

God’s ways can surely be odd, to the point we have to wonder if sometimes God just likes to play games with us.

A young boy, from the shrimp store, in Lorida, as the new King? C’mon, God, c’mon.

But that’s basically what happens here.

So one question we ask is “How does God see?”

What was it in David that God did not see in the seven previous sons? What traits, gifts, talents did David have that the others did not?

According to 1 Samuel, David was strong enough and brave enough to kill wild animals with his hands. So he has a warrior quality.

David knew how to play the lyre, so he’s a musician. And we know that when he faced Goliath, David was steadfast and fearless.

Those are all great traits in a soon-to-be-king.

But when David grew older, he spent part of his life as a deserter, a pseudo- Robin Hood and an adulterer who had Bathesba’s husband killed.

So David had his bad qualities as well as his good. So what was it God saw in him?

...I think back to that first Vacation Bible School. There was a day when the kids were being taught about Noah and the ark, so all of our activities were water based.

What could be better on a hot summer day than to end class with a friendly water balloon fight?

So, as the kids were inside learning their lessons, I was outside the church, filling up each stretchy piece of balloon with water from the spigot.

The children begin singing upstairs and I
distinctly heard the voices of the two boys who had originally started off the week being so quiet.

I look down at what I am doing, and this thought came into my head: what if it wasn’t about what David already had inside, but what God knew he could fill the young man with?

Maybe life isn’t always about what is already in the balloon, but what can be placed within the balloon.

Balloons, when left in the bag can appear to be nothing of value; just bits of color and stretchy rubber. They appear to remain nothing until something is placed inside.

Balloons can filled with breathe, and be transformed into something you can play with. Fill a balloon with air and then you can paint on it, or draw silly faces on it, or use them as party decorations to brighten up the walls.

A balloon can filled with helium and tied to a string, or allowed to float freely up into the heavens.

A balloon can be filled with rocks and used as a weight…or a weapon.

Or a deflated, colorful, stretchy balloon can be filled with cold water on a hot summer day and used for great fun.

You can find wonderful ways to break them apart, slamming them against the concrete or gently squeezing them to let the water slowly spring out.

Once filled with water, balloons can be used as an invigorating, playful means of cooling off, running around, having fun and enjoying life, no matter how little or big of a kid you are.

Was that the secret to God calling David as king?

That it wasn’t about David knowing how to play music, or being courageous or being able to battle beasts with his bare hands?

Was it that God knew he could fill David with the Spirit and that God would be able to work through David, with David, and for David?

Samuel anointed David and in the decades following David proved to be a raw and charismatic leader, a warrior, a lover, a theologian.

But at one time, David was simply a nobody- an eight child.

But through the eyes and actions of God, David becomes the greatest king the people would ever know, the archetype to which all other kings and the future messiah would be based upon.

May we too learn a bit more of how to see each other, and to see ourselves, through our Father’s eyes.

May God teach us to see beyond looks and into the hearts and possibilities of others.

Thanks be to God who sees what we are capable of becoming, to the Son who unites us as adopted sisters and brothers, and for the Holy Spirit which fills us up in ways we could not begin to imagine.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How Dad Shaped My Understanding of God; Romans 8:12-17

Rev. George Miller
June 7, 2015
Romans 8:12-17

“For we know that if the earthly tent
we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.”

Those are the words from last week’s reading of 2 Corinthians 5:1.

We talked of earthly tents and how they are temporary, and of sandcastles and how they all end up returning to the sea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality. July 17 marks the 20th anniversary of burying my Father, and that calendar count-down has started ticking in my soul.

No matter how old we get, no matter how much time passes, there are certain anniversaries we remember; even if our brains do not want to, our hearts and our bodies do.

My father has been gone for 20 years and I don’t talk much about him much. Today I’d like to share a bit with you.

My father, Herbert Allen Miller, was what you’d call an alpha male. An Eagle Scout, a Vietnam Vet, a New York Police Officer: Midtown South- the busiest precinct in the world. He smoked, had a workbench in the basement and loved camping in the woods.

There are two special memories I have of my Dad. The first was when I was about 6. We had just come back from our first trip to Disney World.

While there I got to meet the characters from Robin Hood. I also got the Robin Hood green felt hat with a feather in it.

I loved that hat, wearing it everywhere I went.

One day Dad took me to the local home supply store and as we walked across the parking lot, a gust of wind took my green felt Robin Hood hat and blew it across the parking lot towards the road.

I was devastated, began to cry, but like that! my dad, without hesitating, ran after that hat, and did not stop until he had it…

…My 2nd memory is much more personal. 10 years later, everyone is turning 16 and on Long Island that’s a cause for a party.

It’s at a time when parents let their teenagers drink if there was adult supervision nearby.

So, I went to this particular party knowing there was going to be alcohol. Outside of a sip of a pina colada or a St. Patrick’s toast with beer, I had never drunk before.

I made a few mistakes the day of the party. I was trying to lose weight, so outside of a bowl of soup I hadn’t eaten anything. Also, I had taken one of those over-the-counter diet supplements. Not wise.

We get to the party and after the 2nd drink I don’t recall a thing. Nothing; total black out.

Things went horribly wrong. I threw up next to a couple making out. I was carried up the stairs. They put me in the bathtub and tried to get me to drink milk.

Thank God this was before cell phones, selfies and social media.

They called my father to pick me up. On the way home I wiped my nose on his sleeve. At home I rambled on and on and on about wanting blondes, brunettes and red heads.

I shared every secret, I shared every fear. I opened my heart and said “Everyone thinks I’m gay. But I’m not. I’m not gay.”

I don’t recall any of this. What I do recall is that in the early morning I woke up on a mattress in the living room with both my mother and my father by my side.

I had scared them and my other siblings incredibly.

The next day, my father came into my room to talk about the previous night’s events. He told me what had happened.

The he said, “And in regards to if you are gay or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I will love you no matter what.”

Then, he hugged me, and he kissed me. My Alpha, Eagle Scout, Vietnam Vet, Police Officer of a father hugged and kissed me.

That may very well be the most important moment of my life, and at 21, when I did come out to my parents, I was able to do so without fear of being disowned, unloved or thrown out of the house.

And probably, more than anything else, that moment shaped my understanding and view of God.

There has never been a moment in my life in which I doubted if God ever loved me.

Never did I have to agonize over how my orientation fit with my faith, family or friends.

Looking back, it may very well be that my Dad, at that moment, with his words, his hug and his kiss, created an image of God that transcends anything I could read or learn.

Coupled with the image of him running through the parking lot to catch my hat, these moments have left a lasting mark.

Paul, in today’s reading, talks about the notion of faith and Father, siblings and children.

Paul’s letter to the Romans has a different intent and tone than last week’s reading. Here he is writing to a group of churches he has not had any experience with.

Paul has not visited them, but he wants to. So he writes this letter as a way to introduce himself to them.

He is aware of their current situation. They are a group of house churches trying to adjust to the fact that some of their members are life-long Jews who’ve been persecuted, while others are new to the faith and somewhat blasé about their understanding of the scriptures and food.

This makes worshipping together a bit more difficult and muddies up their understanding of mission and ministry.

So Paul tries to explain a few things to them. The heart of the message is that God is God of all, establishing his understanding of worship and hospitality.

Paul believes in the power of faith; that faith allows us to know God, faith allows us to call upon God, and faith allows us to trust God.

For Paul, the ultimate way we get to know God is through Jesus Christ, in whom history is turned around and creation is restored.

For Paul, the Spirit of God binds us to Christ and we end up becoming adopted into the family of God.

Now, let’s be honest-this all sounds super difficult to understand and way out there, so we’ll try to break it down.

One of the realities we hold true to is that we are children of God.

This notion of a close, intimate relationship was brought home by Jesus when he taught us to pray saying “Our Father,” which is in essence, an overly familiar prayer, as if saying “Our Daddy” or “Our Poppa.”

God is our heavenly parent; we are already God’s children. We are created, we are born, and we live in the world that God made.

But through the event of Jesus Christ, we learn something more- that God doesn’t just stop there expressing God’s love for us.

God goes a step further: God adopts us.

Think about that, and what the act of adoption represents.

When someone adopts a child that means they are intentionally creating, building and expanding their family.

People can get pregnant, people can give birth, but adoption is an intentional process that involves discernment, thought, and intention.

Adoption signifies that one is filled with enough love and compassion to spare.

One adopts because they are free to do so.

One adopts not because they have to, but because they want to.

That’s what we experience about God through Jesus Christ.

God could simply have been an absent, distant parent who gave us life and stepped away, leaving us to fend for ourselves with zero interest in our welfare.

But that’s not who God is. Freely, God became an active parent of us all, participating in our lives.

God gave us the gifts of creation; God gives us the gifts of abiding love that blesses us.

God gave us the giving of the Law and the preaching of the prophets to keep us on track and to help us live healthy and holy lives.

That would be considered enough for any loving parent to do. But God goes yet another step further, sending us Jesus to walk in our midst, share in our joy and our suffering.

Through Jesus, God invites us to be fed at the table, to be washed in the waters, to confess our fears and worries, to be honest about whom we are, and to still be loved, no matter what.

But even that is not where God’s love ends.

Through the cross and the resurrection, through the breaking in of the Holy Spirit, God goes a step even further, and God adopts us, each and everyone.

Through Jesus Christ, God says “You are my child, and I have already given you a home, but now I am going to adopt you, and give you a family-

-a family much grander and greater than you could ever envision, a family grander and greater than you could ever believe.”

What this meant for the original recipients of today’s letter is that it did not matter if some were Jew or some were Gentile, they were both adopted in Christ.

It meant that it didn’t matter if they had been in Papa’s house all their lives or had just entered in or had run away for awhile, they were all home.

It didn’t matter if some ate BBQ pork and shrimp-on-a-stick and others never touched the stuff, they were all spiritually fed by the same Daddy.

It also meant that since they had all been intentionally adopted, they were all now sisters and brothers in Christ.

…which also means, that 2,000 years later, we are their sisters and brothers as well; which means that we are also siblings in the same family.

Which means we are also sisters and brothers to all those who will come after we are long gone, and to all those who find faith in Jesus Christ.

And like any siblings we may not always know how to play nice with one another, we may, from time to time knock another’s sandcastle down or endure minor mishaps.

But we give thanks that we are in this holy family together in which we receive the same expectations, we experience the same love, and we experience the same patience from the same Parent.

I also like to believe that it means when we lose our hats, we know that Papa God will not stand idly by but be present in the moment.

I also believe it means that when we make a spectacle of ourselves, when we share our fears, our secrets, our true self, that God, as our Heavenly Dad will say “No matter what, I will always love you.”

With a Spirit-filled hug from our Heavenly Father we get to build another sandcastle for another day.

With a spirit-filled kiss we get to enjoy the gifts of being chosen for adoption.

With spirit-filled words of assurance we continue to learn what it means to be loved for who we are.

Amen and amen.