Homily – 1st Sunday of Advent

   My friends, the Christian Church universal follows the “beat of its own drummer,” as it were, each year beginning the Church Year, not in conjunction with culture, on January 1st or as those interested mainly with monetary issues, on October 1st, but following their own timetable.  Each and every year, for the Christian, begins and ends with our brother, Jesus, the Christ. 

   Advent, that wonderful, four-week period, give or take some days, leading up to Christmas, is intended to be a time of “expectant waiting.”  And, we might ask, what are we, as Jesus’ followers waiting for?  The simple answer is, for Jesus to come more fully into our lives.  In reality though, it could be said that “Jesus is already here!”  And with that thought in mind, perhaps a better word might be, “remembrance.”  We are “expectantly awaiting” that special season of joy wherein we “remember again” how much our God has loved us by choosing, as Creator, to come and live for awhile in the person of Jesus, among the “created.” 

   We might ponder during these 4 weeks of Advent and this year we are given a full 4 weeks of time, (determined by when the 25th of December falls each year) just why our Creator God would choose to do such a thing. 

   The perhaps, simple and easier answer in the past, especially before Vatican II was to paint a picture of a sinful people, us, in need of redemption and because our sins were so great, only the Son of God could repair the human “damage” done—through his own death on the cross. 

   Prior to Vatican II, we all were taught to believe this erroneous “truth,” and also not to question the belief.  With the Second Vatican Council, when good Pope John rightly said that the Church, “needed to open some windows, letting some fresh air in,” were we, the faithful, given permission to question the beliefs that for eons we were required to blindly believe.  Because after all, we know that having a people all believing the same thing, no questions asked, are by those in charge, thought to be must easier to control. What ever happened to the notion of, “the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth?!”

   Also, the idea of a Supreme Being choosing to come among us—not as a “vindictive despot,” but as a loving brother, friend—for no other reason than, to show us that we are loved, treasured and to show us the way, are concepts that at times, can be, without a doubt, “messy.” How are these, “in charge,” “to corral” folks in?  And that is perhaps the point.  The hierarchy of the Church are not called to “corral or force,” and punish when “their” wishes are not followed, but as the psalmist says today in number 25—to instruct, lead and teach—in other words, “the steadfast love and faithfulness of Adonai,” who simply wants to be in relationship, “friendship” with us. 

   The term, “Adonai,” if you are not familiar with it, is one of, “reverence” for God in the Greek, used in the Priests for Equality translation of the Scriptures that we use at All Are One.  It is another way of saying, “lord” which they chose not to use as it indicates a top-down relationship which by much of New Testament Scripture seems to indicate that our God, in Jesus, doesn’t want. 

   The Church in its wisdom treats us in each new Church Year to one of the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  “Synoptic” simply means, much in all three is similar.   The differences tend to show themselves due to the population that the book was primarily written for.  In this Church Year, 2021-2022, we will be using Luke who was writing for the Gentiles—folks like us and it is thought that he never knew Jesus in his lifetime but learned of him through Paul. 

   The “Jesus” that he shows us will appear as a teacher—one with ethical wisdom—someone who is confident and serene in his teaching, interested in placing the virtues of “compassion and forgiveness” before the followers and encouraging their living out these virtues. 

   So the fact that Luke will be raising the concept of “ethical living,” the first reading from the prophet, Jeremiah, is fitting— “The land will be called, Our God is our justice.”  Also, “I will raise up a branch of David who will do what is right and just.” 

   Additionally, Luke is the best of the three synoptic Gospels in sharing stories uplifting women.  This is true from the first chapter where two women, Mary and Elizabeth have prominent roles to Anna, in the temple when Jesus is presented as a baby, to Mary of Magdala in the garden after the resurrection.  For this reason, your pastor, along with other women in ministry, delight in this Gospel. 

   So, my friends, this season of Advent, just beginning, calls us to remember reflectively, the true reason for our brother Jesus coming among us—simply put, to show us that we are truly loved by our God, and to help us live our one, wonderful, human life in the best of ways—by watching how he did it. 

   The writer to the Thessalonians— Paul, says it like this: “May our Savior make you grow and overflow with love for one another and for all people—may Christ strengthen your hearts.” 

   From this it would seem confirmed that Jesus advocated more for a “heart” response than for one coming from the “head.”  And as in all of my homilies, friends, I try to bring us back to the present—how are we to see these Scriptures in our day-to-day lives?

   Luke’s Jesus seems to be calling us to “balance” in our lives—enjoy, but don’t get lost in over-indulgence.  Additionally, we are to “pray always.” I would like to suggest that the “praying” called for here might be more about daily realizing that we are in the presence of our God, than about the recitation of words.  And this “presence” that we should be aware of, is all around us, in all of created life.  And when did our world need this kind of realization more?

   There is a bit of apocalyptic writing in today’s Gospel—a topic that those in Jesus’ time were often mentally engaged in.  I for one don’t think that kind of “mental engaging” is important if we rather, keep our eyes on doing what is right and good, just and loving. 

   May each of you be blessed with love, peace, and joy during these days of “expectant waiting.”  May we each, always, hold the gratitude expressed at Thanksgiving time in our hearts for all that we have, and do all that we can for those who have less and struggle every day—some even, to eat. 

   Additionally, as we expectantly await Christmas, let us pray for our beloved country, so divided at present, to have an awakening to the fact that in order to survive in any meaningful way, we must BE for each other—listen to each other, and collectively find the ways toward justice for all.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – Feast of Jesus, the Christ, Our Brother and Friend

My friends, as you know, this feast brings us to the official end of the current Church Year with next Sunday beginning the new one and the holy season of Advent—a time of expectant waiting.  If we were simply to take a cursory look at the chosen readings for today, you would think we are celebrating, “kingship,” as we humans understand that— “a lording over others.” But a deeper look really does say something more. 

   The reading from Daniel is probably closest to this human definition of being “a king” in that it places, “this One” in a “power over” position, saying that this is an “eternal” condition.  It would seem the question we need to ask is, “What is it that designates the ‘rightness’ of this ‘power over’ by Jesus?” It seems that the other two readings give us our answer. 

   The reading from Revelation speaks of Jesus, the Christ as “sovereign of the rulers of the earth.”  This writer, whom it is thought to be, John the apostle, further speaks of, “Christ—who loves us,” and goes on to say that “he freed us from our sins by shedding his blood.”  I would submit the part that makes Jesus, the Christ, “sovereign” is that [he has loved us.]  Let me say that again, perhaps in a bit different way:  Jesus, the Christ is “sovereign,” not because he has “died” or “saved us from our sins,” but primarily, and for no other reason than that, “he has loved us!”

   Finally, the gospel of John confirms this notion.  Pilate asks Jesus if he is, “King of the Jews.”  Jesus’ response seems to come from a man exasperated once again that the message of his life has been misconstrued.  It is almost as if he is saying, “If you want to think of me, as a king, so be it, as I can’t seem to convince you otherwise.”  But then, Jesus gives us the clarification; “I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth,” [and] “everyone who seeks truth hears my voice.”  And we do have to give Pilate credit, because if we read further in the Scripture story, we see that he asks Jesus, “And what is the truth?” We see that Jesus isn’t going to answer Pilate’s question because his whole life had already given the answer. 

    And friends, we know that the “truth” is about God loving us so much so as to become one of us. Paul states in Philippians 2, “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to that, but humbled himself and became like humans are.”  And we know that his most remarkable life was all about showing his human sisters and brothers, the way to live and to love, which is really the “truth” that Pilate was asking for but didn’t realize at the time.

   So if that was God’s intent, to be one of us and with us, why did the Church inaugurate this feast that really removes Jesus, putting him on a pedestal away from us, rather than with us? 

   Upon checking, we see that this feast is only a little less than a hundred years old being proclaimed by Pius XI in 1925.  It was a time in our Catholic history when Church fathers feared that God wasn’t being given due respect, so it seemed to them appropriate to inaugurate such a feast.  Too bad they didn’t look back to Jesus’ words to see what God truly wanted from and with humans—not a top-down relationship, king to subjects, but a “one-with” relationship, friend to friend.  So, it is for that reason that I suggest the name of this feast be changed to Jesus, Our Brother and Friend. 

   When we pick up on the discussion between Jesus and Pilate in today’s gospel and realize that Jesus isn’t about being a “king” and claiming an earthly crown, but about sharing the “truth” with us humans that we are loved by our God, nothing more, nothing less, then we can come to the truth that this feast is all wrong! 

   In truth, this proclaimed feast is really more about whom we as humans are—concerned with power, than whom our God is.  Further, and more distinctly, this reflects who Church Fathers are more than who God is! 

   So, my friends, seeing where this feast came from in our Church history and with my suggestion that our brother Jesus might want us to have a different view of why it is appropriate at the Church Year’s end to celebrate him, let’s refocus then on our present day, facing our world as he did his, not with a notion of “power over” as in “kingship,” but as in, “one-with” others, represented by, “kin-ship,”  as in “brother/sister/friend. 

   In my years as a chaplain, I was often in the position of facilitating a “Celebration of Life” for those who had died, and I always reminded families that they could best remember their deceased loved ones by emulating their good qualities in their own lives going forward.  In other words, if their deceased loved ones “showed love” by spending time cooking, playing with family members, teaching a skill, whatever it might be, then we would best emulate them by doing the same in our lifetimes.  And it would be the same with our brother Jesus.

    Jesus-with-us, Emmanuel, as we will celebrate in a few short weeks calls us to truth, justice, mercy, and compassion.  Sometimes, to act thusly can bring us upset and fear that we stand alone.

   At that time, we must remember the messages coming from the 1st and 2nd readings today—basically that Jesus, the Christ, our brother, and friend in our humanity is eternal, is forever! Also, that this eternal brother and friend sends us grace and peace through the Spirit of God to do that which we must do. 

   So friends, as we move toward the beautiful and holy season of Advent beginning next Sunday, let us focus on the One who came to be one-with-us, keeping our eyes on him and receive the strength we need to be his true followers, not as people who, “lord it over others,” but as ones who, “walk with others” in what life brings! 

   Psalm 93 gives us perhaps a final idea on the theme of, “reign.”  The psalmist says, “holiness adorns your house.”  Perhaps “holiness” which comes from being people of justice, mercy, compassion, and love, is more of a reason than, “power over” others to celebrate Jesus, on this last weekend of the Church Year.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, the official church calendar names next Sunday as the last Sunday in the Church Year, but in my mind, I always think of this Sunday, the 33rd in Ordinary Time as the end, looking toward next Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King as one to celebrate, with gratitude, all that Jesus, the Christ has been for us—a true brother and friend.  And with that in mind, that his and God’s purpose (3 in 1) was never that he come as, “a king” to “lord it over us,” but really as a brother and friend, to show us the way to live and to love; I, as many of you know, have taken the liberty of re-naming next week’s feast, Jesus, Our Brother, and Friend. 

   But I am getting ahead of myself—we need today to concentrate then on all that this 33rd and last Sunday in Ordinary Time really means.  Primarily, it is a time of “transition,” a fact that seems clear in today’s readings.

   “End times” seem to be today’s focus and in order to understand the totality of meaning here, we need to remember that the Israelite people are dealing with two distinct meanings when thinking about “end times.”  These two meanings are about, “end times,” yes, but also about, “the end of time.”

    The “end times” were thought to be a time of transition, when suffering and hard times would be no more, when the Chosen One, whom Christians believe is Jesus, the Christ, will come again in glory to make all things right and the kin-dom will be celebrated before the face of God, in that wonderful reality.  It is a tremendously hope-filled image that is attractive to many people. The cinema has played into this image of a time of justice when good, will reign—in the epic series, The Lord of the Rings, and in the Star Wars movies.  

   The “end of time” is another time, and when that time will come, none of us knows, or in fact understands just how it will be—it would appear that Jesus, in his humanity didn’t even know. We will just have to trust that all will unfold according to God’s loving plan. The reading from Hebrews today says as much—that in fact, in Jesus, all will be well.  So why, we might ask, are we given frightening images—of the sun and moon going dark—of stars falling from the sky?  Exegetes tell us that some of this talk in Mark’s gospel today may have been a “cover for the people” from their enemies as a result of the subversive tone of some of Jesus’ teachings

   The Israelites were told overtime, that what they were suffering would come to an end—the Chosen One would eventually alleviate their sufferings—this was their hope.   This knowledge that their God did hear their cries and would come to save them, gave them the will to go on.  In faith, we must believe the same, especially in these times of so much upheaval in Church and State—talk about “frightening images!”

   The Church in its hierarchy just can’t seem to do the right thing—coming together for the good of all—truly speaking the message of our brother Jesus, where women, the disadvantaged, and the abused—in so many ways, are concerned. Pope Francis is trying, but alas…

   Our nation is struggling at present, with many “navel-gazing,” as it were, on themselves, unable to see that individual actions do affect, and in the case of COVID, “infect” others. When our personal rights and privileges stand in the way of those same rights and privileges for others, something is wrong that could benefit from looking at the example of our brother Jesus in his life with us. 

   Our nation as well as the nations of the world, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland these past two weeks to discuss climate change, would do well to listen to the Spirit that is being proclaimed through the young people who are attending this conference, who will inherit the continued devastation of our beautiful earth if we don’t come together and make the needed changes. 

   Their frustration, felt by many, over the lack of collective, meaningful ways to care for the earth was probably said no better than by 18-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who in response to the promises made by those present, pledging changes in the future— “bla, bla, bla!”  Greta and other young activists don’t believe that those of us who can actually bring about change, mean it! 

   So, my friends, the placing of “end times” and “the end of time” readings on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is most appropriate as we wind down one Church Year and move into a new one with the coming of the holy, preparatory season of Advent in just two weeks. We are called to reflect on what has been, what we have helped to change that has needed change and how we propose to move forward.

   The changes that are needed are many—none of us can do all, but together, we could do so much!  From the valiant, on-going work of the Thursday morning writers—to our own personal contacts with legislators, demanding that they stop wasting time and get the peoples’ work done. Pray for those in these positions where change can happen that they do what is right in Church and State and pray for those who have no intention of changing, as they are just in it for themselves.  And pray for all the “closed minds” in the general public who are responding rather selfishly.  And most of all,  never lose hope my friends—never lose hope. 

   Our forebears in the faith never lost faith or ceased to hope, at least, collectively—nor should we.  Determine what needs to be done in any situation and then do the “piece” that is yours to do. 

   The first reading from Daniel lets us know that “The wise will shine like bright heavens and the leaders of justice like the stars forevermore.”  A symbol, good and true for us as Christians, followers of our brother Jesus has always been, “light.”  We believe that he is “our light” in the darkness.  Knowing as he told us, when gracing this earth, “that I will be with you always— “lighting the way,” as it were, we really have no reason to doubt, no reason to fear, but simply live in the present, attempting each day to do our best. Amen? Amen!

Homily – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, so often the lessons coming from the weekly Scriptures are “simple” ones—lessons that challenge us about becoming, who each of us is intended to be, at our best.  When life becomes discouraging and even frustrating, it is often because humans, rather than choosing to be their best, choose the lowest common denominator that allows them to go through life, rather unscathed. 

   But, let’s leave that for a bit and look for the lessons in today’s Scriptures.  From the Old Testament prophet, Elijah and the New Testament prophet, our brother, Jesus, we are treated to the stories of two women who ultimately, choose to, “give their best” and as a result, the best comes back to them—at least for the woman in the Old Testament reading from Kings.  The woman the Jesus lifts up for us to consider; we don’t know what ultimately happens to her, but we can assume that her goodness, her largeness of heart is repaid with good, going forward. 

   So, let’s look closer at these two women and try to understand the totality of the gift that each gives.  In each case we see that these women are living, “on the edge.”  The woman from the Old Testament reading is a widow, caring for her son, and both are literally, starving to death.  When Elijah comes into this pair’s lives and asks for, “water and bread,” the woman is about to prepare their final meal!  We can understand why she hesitates a bit before giving Elijah that final meal, a stranger, rather than her son. 

   Ultimately, this woman and mother, gives out of her need and in order for her to do this, we have to assume that she also has a great deal of faith. She believes what Elijah tells her, sight unseen, that, “the jar of flour and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day YHWH makes it rain on the land.”   

Additionally, we must remember the plight of all widowed, or otherwise single women in Elijah’s as well as in Jesus’ time.  Women had basically no power, no resource if there wasn’t a man in their lives—and the children of such women were in the same straights.  It says something then that, “a man” would ask so much of this poor woman.  It also should tell us something when we realize how graciously Elijah rewarded, through God’s help, his most generous benefactor.  And each of us must take this to heart as the Scriptures of old are for us today.  Each of us is called to care in our plenty and in our need and to walk in faith, trusting that our God is watching over us. 

   “Caring” when in need is truly the personal story of each woman lifted up for us today.  Each story is so compelling because on face value, we may not expect the reaction—the gift that each gives, “out of her need.”

   Many of us are blessed with being able to give “out of our plenty,” and we should, when we have the opportunity.  The idea of giving, “out of our need” is compelling because it would seem, that each of us, out of plenty, or out of need is being called, to give—to share, what we can.

   Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jesus really wants us, “to get” the example of the poor woman in the Gospel story today from Mark, who gives, “out of her need,” as opposed to the “religious scholars” [who serve themselves on the gifts of others].  This should say something to us about the real, spiritual need to strive for balance with the goods of this world.  That anyone, anywhere, is hungry, homeless, lonely, or afraid should weigh on our hearts so that we do our part to alleviate those needs. This is truly what it means to, “be our best.”

   Because none of us can do it all, it is good to remember, in our day, that there are many ways to give:  financially yes—but there is also the gift of our time, visiting a shut-in, bringing the communion of the altar, but also, in the larger sense, the “communion” that each of us, is—our smiles, our companionship with and for others. 

   This past February marked 10 years that our parish has participated in Home-Delivered Meals.  And I would guess that we, in our three cooking groups, have been bringing monthly meals to the Catholic Worker (Bethany) House for that many years as well. 

   I have mentioned in our bulletin, but will again here, that we have need of two more volunteers to serve on our All Are One board beginning in January of 2022 as two people would like to step down after serving several terms.  Please be in touch with me, either “out of your plenty” or “out of your need” where time is concerned, to serve in this way.  It is a job that I can honestly say is more fun than work.  Elijah’s words to the poor mother in today’s Scriptures might be fitting in this regard, “Don’t be afraid,” [God will cover your needs].

   I have talked quite a bit today about generosity in giving—not as much about the “faith” it takes at times, like in the two women in today’s readings, trusting that the little we may be able to give, or do, will matter, and not put us in jeopardy if we do in fact move in faith, to try and help.  We must look to this aspect of “faith” though, as both of today’s prophets, Elijah and Jesus seem to be calling us to such trust. It moves us beyond our own needs to see the needs of others, which often times are much greater than our own. Or as Joan Chittister says on her calendar page for November, “When we begin to see as God sees, we see far beyond ourselves.”

   I believe our brother Jesus wants us to understand that whatever we can give, does matter, and when it comes, out of our need, it can truly “break open our hearts” so that we can see what is most important. 

   The writer to the Hebrews in today’s second reading, as in past Sundays, speaks to the surface issue of Jesus’s sacrifice of his life, “for our sins.”  I would like to suggest that our brother’s sacrifice of his life was all about showing us the way to live and to love—and those with power didn’t always like how Jesus called us, “to be our best,” and perhaps that is why he had to die. 

  Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong said it rather profoundly and I will conclude with his words: 

      When we strive to be our best selves, our humanity, which is really “divine” in its best sense, comes to the fore, and when that happens, we have achieved, heaven, by growing to that place that  our loving God intended for us all along—giving, caring, loving, and living for ourselves and others. Amen? Amen!

Homily – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, again this Sunday, as in previous Sundays, comes the admonition, “to listen.”  And what, we might ask, “Are we to listen to?”  The writer of Deuteronomy, thought to be Moses, clearly states that we should listen so as to carefully determine, “what will bring [us] prosperity.”  This is then followed by the beautiful prayer known to all practicing Jews— then, and to the present.

   “Hear O Israel…love your God with all your heart, and soul, and strength.”  Then in Mark’s gospel selection for today, our brother Jesus, repeats this same prayer which defines the greatest commandment, but gives a second commandment too, which in Matthew and Luke are expanded upon letting us know that the second is no less important than the first.  We all of course know that the 2nd is, “To love our neighbors as ourselves. 

   Moses goes on to say of this beautiful Jewish prayer, “Let these words be written on your hearts.”  Now to fully understand the import of Moses words, we have to look at a bit of Jewish/Israelite history with their God. 

   In the Old Testament, a relationship with God could quite simply be summed up in the word, “covenant.”  God had made a covenant with the people and they with God.  In our day, “promise” would be the understanding we would have—God promises to watch over the people and they in turn promise—faith inx, and love for God.  Each of us, through our godparents said, “yes” to this commitment to God when we were baptized and at our confirmations, we said our own “yeses.” 

   The Israelites, in the beautiful prayer, “Hear O Israel,” pray that this admonition, that they love God with all their heart, soul, and strength, would literally, “be written on their hearts,” so as to never forget.   And further, this action of having this commandment, “written on their hearts,” lifts up for them how important it truly is.  They would have seen this action as, “engaging their consciences,” too, so that the observance isn’t, “cold and methodical,” but truly, “alive” and what would make them well, in all ways, and would ultimately cause them, “to prosper” as Moses spoke of in the first reading.

   Additionally, for the Hebrew people, “the heart” was considered the “seat” of their minds and wills.  Their souls were thought of as, “the source of all vitality” and, “all of one’s strength.”  All of this, in combination then, was “to be taken to their hearts,” or in other words, “taken very seriously.” 

   So it is, with this understanding, that Jesus answers the scribe’s question in today’s gospel.  Often times, the scribes and Pharisees are attempting to trip Jesus up—to find fault with his seemingly unorthodox teachings, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here—this scribe who would have been well-versed in the 613 laws to regulate the people’s lives, was simply asking Jesus which he thought, “was most important.” 

   Our brother Jesus—always one to give more than what is asked for, repeats the “O Israel” prayer laying out the commandment to love their God, with the totality of their beings, but adds a second commandment, “no less important,” he says, to complete the instruction—that they/we “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  And over time, these two have come to be known as, the Two Great Commandments.  Those who have spent time thinking on these two, have said that really, keeping them is all that is needed where laws and commandments are concerned. 

   Jewish scholar, Hillel, under whom it is thought that Paul of Tarsus studied, put it this way—after these two, “all the rest is commentary.” 

   The writer to the Hebrews, in today’s 2nd reading, speaks of our brother Jesus as our, “high priest,” who is holy, without fault and as one, “set apart.”  Clearly, we should keep our eyes on him.  Jesus’ commitment was, “total” to the One who sent him and if we would be his followers, ours must be too, this writer seems to be saying.

   So my friends, bringing all this forward, what do these readings say to us?  Because you see, our very own “yeses” to God/Jesus, in time, call us to more than just, “hearing” the Word—we must act on it too. 

   For the Israelites, saying that they “loved God” meant that they must love those others that God is in commitment with too.  The way this often played out for them in real life was that for this nomadic people—one that “traveled” a good deal, everyone—friend or foe—they named them, “strangers and guests,” were welcome at their homes and could expect, “hospitality”—that’s what, “writing it on their hearts” meant to them. 

   For us friends, as Christians—Jesus’ followers, this means, that we must welcome and care for, “the Body of Christ.”  And we all know that this care goes further than the “bread” of the altar.  Some things to care about this next week within the Body of Christ:

  • The COP26 Summit—the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland
  • Racism—at our roots
  • Sexism/patriarchy—rooted deeply too
  • Poverty and homelessness in our country, and the list can go on—but this is probably enough to ponder and pray over for a week

   But it is right that we care because as Jesus said, “How can you say that you love God whom you cannot see, but not love your neighbor who you can?”  Jesus said it best in Matthew 25— “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me.”  Our hearts, my friends, are generally in the right place; but our bodies and minds aren’t always there. When we find it hard to do something kind for someone we may not like, it’s good to remember that they may be carrying a heavy load around and are doing the best that they can. What is presented to the world may be a sullen, unfriendly countenance and their actions may seem selfish and unkind, but it may be that they are living with a broken heart.

   When we say we love another with our whole heart and mind, soul and strength, as we talked about here today, we must include all those whom that one loves.  It is that way with God too. And when we love, or try to love completely, as God does, we too are close to the kindom because we are doing what God does.  Let me repeat that–when we love, or try to love completely, as God does, we too are close to the kindom because we are doing what God does. 

   This next week, remember All Saints and All Souls days on the 1st and 2nd of November—all those who have gone on before us—who perhaps have shown us the way. And all the Sundays in November, I will have our Book of Life here for you to remember all your loved ones who have passed on and to add any new names that you may have.  Amen? Amen!