Monday, February 20, 2017

A Workable Trajectory

In the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures, a little known story is told about a group of African-American women who helped NASA accomplish space travel. Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the film focuses on three real-life African-American female pioneers: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were part of NASA's team of human "computers." This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and John Glenn to travel safely to space. Through sheer tenacity, force of will, and intellect, they ensured their stamp on American history—even if their story has remained obscured from public view.

In June 1941, with war raging in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt needed to ensure the growth of the federal workforce. He issued an Executive Order which banned "discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin" (notice that gender is not included). Six months later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the throes of war, NASA and Langley began recruiting African-American women with college degrees to work as human computers. As you might assume, African-American computers were paid less than their white counterparts and relegated to the segregated west section of the Langley campus, where they had to use separate dining and bathroom facilities. [i]

In the film, Hidden Figures, human computer Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, was shown running back to the west campus several times a day just to use the rest room; the colored rest room; 45 minutes round trip. Of course her boss, Al Harrison, played by Kevin Costner, was growing more and more frustrated with this woman who, hired to help with John Glenn’s trajectory, kept disappearing for long periods of time.

One rainy day, Mr. Harrison confronted a soaking wet and frustrated Ms. Johnson saying, ‘Where are you disappearing to? Where do you go all the time? I need you here!’ And her loud and rebellious response (you’ve gotta watch the film) caused Mr. Harrison stop what he was doing, go over to the west campus with an iron crow bar, and proceed to batter down the “Colored restroom” signs in front of all the employees. When the sign came crashing to floor Harrison said to all present, ‘There won’t be separate bathrooms anymore. Here at NASA, we all pee the same color.’

This moment in the movie stood out to me as much as any other meaningful and moving scene, of which there were many. You see, the Jim Crow culture of separate but equal, caused a problem for everyone. This stands as a good example of when one person, or group of people are treated differently or even oppressed, we are all affected. We all pay a price. The work that NASA was doing, and does, put lives at stake. Especially early on during the so-called space race when so much was unknown and unprecedented. The work Katherine Johnson was doing for these astronauts was so vital to their safety and protection of their lives. Her main job leading up to and during the mission was to double-check and reverse engineer the trajectory calculations. Having her continually leave the control room to use a restroom a half mile away and be absent from crucial duties simply because of the color of her skin was ridiculous, irresponsible, and detrimental to the mission. It is documented and included in the movie, John Glenn himself requesting that Johnson specifically check and confirm trajectories. He told the head engineer, “Get the girl to check the numbers... If she says the numbers are good... I'm ready to go." You need that woman in the room!

The scripture readings for today are completely wrapped up in our worth. God declares that you and I have worth. That those who differ from us have worth. St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us. These are beautiful and remarkable words; ones that tell us that we are of invaluable worth, but they are also words that demand something from us. If we are a holy people; God’s temple, then we are only so if we love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are a holy people; God’s temple, then we are only so if we not only forgive, but love our enemies.

Jesus teaches unprecedented mercy and forgiveness: “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you…” These are not instructions that undergird or encourage individualism, but rather instructions for those who live in a godly community; a temple that is holy and glorifies God.

Jesus then culminates this part of his teaching, which goes on for the next couple of chapters, by telling his disciples, and as always, the reader and hearer of this message, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Now, before you make up your mind that this is impossible and you shut your ears to the instruction of being as perfect as God, there is some good news here. It doesn’t let us off the hook, but a deeper understanding of this teaching is quite wonderful.

Let’s come back to the story of Katherine Johnson and her mathematics for a workable trajectory for John Glenn’s travel in orbit. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word we translate “perfect” is actually the Greek word telos and implies less a moral perfection than it does reaching one’s intended outcome. For example, the telos of an arrow shot by an archer is to reach its target. The telos of a peach tree is to yield peaches.[ii]  The telos of NASA’s mission in 1962 was to bring John Glenn and his crew back to Earth safely. Telos, could very well be used synonymously with trajectory.

If our trajectory is realizing the kingdom of God, which Jesus describes at the onset of this fifth chapter of Matthew with the Sermon on the Mount, then the equations or formulas we must follow include loving our neighbors as well as our enemies; welcoming those who are not our family and friends; to go the extra mile for another; to pray for those who wish ill of us. These are examples of the steps we must take to meet our destination; to meet our goal, which is the Kingdom.

Katherine Johnson wrote these elaborate equations on a huge chalkboard in that NASA control room. Our huge chalkboard must include endless equations or examples of acts of love. Striving for the Kingdom, practicing acts of love and mercy and peace are what Jesus is telling us. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In other words, get on the trajectory that leads you to love and charitable thoughts of others. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says in many of his great sermons, “If it ain’t got nothing to do with love, then it ain’t got nothing to do with God.” And he’s right. If it ain’t got nothing to do with love it doesn’t belong on our road map.

From the collect for 7 Epiphany, Let us pray.

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

[i] Blitz, Matt. (2017, February 3). The True Story of “Hidden Figures” and the Women Who Crunched the Numbers for NASA
[ii] Lose, David. (2017, February 14). Epiphany 7A: Telos.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Going Beyond

In the gospel lesson Sunday (Matthew 5:21-37), Jesus revisits and teaches on the law or the commandments given to Israel by Moses (in Matthew's gospel, Jesus parallels Moses in several illustrations). In his continuing address to the disciples, Jesus teaches that while the law is binding, our hearts should go an extra distance. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment..." Following Jesus bids us to go deeper than just keeping rules and laws. Jesus teaches us to examine our hearts and keep our motives pure.

Today, the church remembers Thomas Bray, an English parson who came to the colony of Maryland around 1800 to educate clergy, laity, and children in the ways of the faith and of the Church. He founded thirty-nine lending libraries in the new world, as well as several schools, and raised money for missionary work.

Upon his return to England, Thomas Bray was appalled at the condition of English prisons and raised public awareness of the problem. Again, he raised money to help fund ways to alleviate the misery of inmates. He organized Sunday "Beer and Beef" dinners in the prisons as well as proposed prison reform. 

The example Thomas Bray sets for us in light of the gospel of Jesus is that he goes beyond the rule of law to care for the sick and those in prison and took the initiative to affect change for those suffering. Not just visit the imprisoned, but improve their lives and conditions, following the charge to "respect the dignity of every human being" as our Baptismal Covenant states in the Book of Common Prayer. As an Anglican, Bray would hold fast to this theology.

Go the extra step to follow Jesus. Rather than merely refrain from violence, be kind to others. Rather than following basic precepts of your own faith, take the initiative to make someone else's life a little better. In doing this, we will find immeasurable grace, and the peace that passes human understanding.

Encouraging Others

It seems that regardless of what community to which we belong, including the church, people can and will be exposed to some kind of criticism or disapproval. Imagine a place where this doesn't exist. Imagine a place where people can come together, honor each other’s strengths and gifts and not just forgive their shortcomings, but embrace them. I imagine such a place.

So today I want to encourage people in faith communities, work places and homes, to encourage one another. Not so we can just go smiling off into the sunset because it made us feel special for a moment in time, but because encouraging others is life changing, can uplift and renew a culture, and it’s biblical.

Encouragement goes straight to the heart. In fact, the word itself comes from a combination of the prefix, “en” which means “to put into” and the Latin root “cor” which means “heart”. When we are encouraged, our hearts are strengthened (not really our blood-pumping organ, but that part in us that is tied to our soul and to our personhood). When our hearts are strengthened, we become resilient and ready to be vulnerable with one another. In other words, I think when we feel encouraged and supported by one another, we can fully enter into God’s work in the world and become stronger people and a better community.

St. Paul uses words like “encourage” and “build” when he speaks to his newly formed congregations in the early church. He admonishes his churches to encourage one another and “build each other up” because he knows the devastating results that can happen otherwise. In Pauls’ time, it was hard to be a Christian, or Christ follower. Christians met in private homes and were typically “underground” assemblies so that the authorities wouldn't detect them. Paul, before his conversion, was one of these authorities that with glee would arrest, and bring to trial, followers of the Way.

Today, we may not be arrested for following Jesus (however, when one stands for justice for the hungry, homeless, or disadvantaged, contemporary Christians have been known to spend a night in the slammer), but this does not mean that being a Christian isn't a challenge. It’s a big challenge! We live in a culture that is becoming less and less churched and where people are giving more and more into the ways of the world and of their own ambitions and personal goals; usually in the pursuit of high salaries and powerful positions.

By the time we make it to church on Sunday morning (if we can garner the energy to do so to begin with!), we are in need of a recharge, an uplifting experience, and a community that loves and supports us. St. Paul tells his church people in Thessalonica, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing...respect those who labor among you...esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves...encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them” (5:11-14).

Today I ask the people of St. Christopher’s to accept a stewardship season challenge: Encourage someone. Encourage a fellow church member as often as you can between now and the culmination of our stewardship season on November 6. Of course, we should continue after the 6th, but maybe, just maybe during this campaign entitled “Living Generously”, we can begin a cultural shift and create a culture of generosity and encouragement, and leave behind a culture of criticism.

*Here are seven ways I found that we can encourage one another:

1. If an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it! It may not have the same effect if you wait. Don't let shyness hold you back. Instead, form a new habit: “Encourage one another daily” Heb 3:13.

2. When you introduce someone, add a few words of praise for the person’s abilities or accomplishments. It's encouraging to be praised in front of others.

3. When someone is discouraged or hurting, offer specific, practical help. If you ask, “How can I help?” the person might be at a loss to answer. It may be better to ask, “Would it help if I…” or say, “I would like to…”

4. In a digital age, write a handwritten note to compliment someone or to share a positive word.

5. Write someone a note to tell them that you're praying for them.

6. If you’re part of a church group, Bible study or fellowship, be committed to showing up. Your presence encourages others that they are part of a community of faith and that they are not alone. The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together...but let us encourage one another” (10:25).

7. When you see someone making positive changes in their lives, affirm them.

8. Tell people how they’ve encouraged you!
If we take on the challenge to Live Generously and encourage one another and not be critical, I promise the result will only be positive. This is part of our stewardship: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12). Are we willing to take on this challenge?

*(Source: “19 ways to encourage others”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Feast of St. Matthew

This is the first of what I plan to be a weekly message to the members of St. Christopher’s. My goal is to reflect on the gospel message of the previous day with the attention on our call to follow Jesus. This first submission, however, is inspired by the story of Matthew, the tax-collector-turned-apostle, written on this, the feast day of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. He was an abhorrent tax-collector, yet Jesus sought him out and called Matthew to follow him. Matthew, a most unexpected character is called to follow Jesus. I believe the conversation around following Jesus and committing our life to him is lacking in many faith communities. Sure, we worship and attend various social activities in our churches, but how much of this work is focused and dedicated to serving Jesus? As of the morning that I wrote this, I read this devotional from the Forward: Day by Day devotional booklet, by the Rev. Jonathan Melton:

“My only job, the only thing I ought to be about, is proclaiming the glory and joy of the holy and undivided Trinity. It is very easy to forget this most important fact about my vocation. No sooner do I pray to be a person of peace than I am swearing at the copier or lamenting spotty wireless [phone connections] – as if the astonishing and animating Trinity depends in any real way upon those amenities.”

It can be difficult to keep Christ at our center – or even “the glory and joy of the holy and undivided Trinity” – in the midst of our busy lives. We have bills to pay, children and grandchildren to give time to, our health to maintain, difficult people with whom we work, the list goes on. Our lives are distracted. Our cares are many. But God is present. Christ is present. And God wants to be, and joyfully desires to be, in these various and mundane occurrences in our daily lives. Jesus is calling us to follow him. Like Matthew, Jesus calls us despite our own feelings of treachery, brokenness, inadequacy, or distance from God.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. – Matthew 9:9

Get up and follow Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Seeking Balance

Benedictine spirituality has always been attractive to me. This is no wonder, since a great number of Episcopalians feel drawn to this kind of spiritual discipline. I think we like this “brand” of spiritual discipline because it allows us to practice the spiritual life in the context of our own lives, that is, Benedictine spirituality lends itself to our daily rhythms and routines.

A book entitled, “How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job” by Brother Benet Tvetden, describes the Benedictine Way thusly:

The entire Rule of St. Benedict is centered on Christ and the Christian life. That’s why everyone—not just monks and nuns—can benefit from following it. Benedict added nothing new to Christian doctrine. He preached gospel values applied in an orderly fashion to everyday life. His way of living is similar to that of the early Christians who are described in the Acts of the Apostles. They devoted themselves to holding all things in common, breaking bread together, and praising the Lord. Benedict is focused on Christ in prayer, work, and in familial relationships. Seek Christ, Benedict insists, but he realizes that you don’t have to go very far to find Him. His image is reflected in ourselves and in everyone else.

My ecclesiology (that is, theology of the church community) greatly hinges on Acts 2. I’ve taught this, written on it, and preached about it. Acts 2 speaks to our common life, the expectations of fellow Christians, and even encouragement of welcoming guests and newcomers to be counted among Christ’s Body. Read Acts 2:42-47 and you will see what I mean. Brother Tvetden describes the life of Benedict and of early Christians rightly by referring to Acts 2.

When we open our hearts and minds to the reading of Acts 2 (especially to vv. 42-47) we see a comprehensive image of the church that the Holy Spirit breathes into being. We are reminded in the words according to St. Luke of what good, healthy church life looks like. Breaking bread together; praying for one another; sharing our bounty; and inviting others into the community.

The Benedictine way has three main points for living healthful Christian lives: work, study, prayer. Benedict insisted on a balance to our lives. Since God is reflected in all others—and in our Anglican spirituality, all of nature and our sensory experiences— then God is surely found in our daily lives of work, relations, and certainly our spirit-work. In our contemporary, western culture, work toward success, and work to just make ends meet, can overwhelm us and rob us of our relationship with God. I think this is why we find Benedict’s Rule so attractive. We crave balance, because we crave God and yearn for a closer relationship to God. Our hard work, our fervent busy-ness, our addictions and procrastinations are evidences of our yearning. Benedict calls for a balanced life, so that activity such as prayer and service to others doesn't fade and become forgotten. In a balanced life, our spirituality is always on our minds and practiced regularly.

As we enter this season of reflection, thanksgiving and stewardship, there is no better time to think about balance in our lives as followers of Jesus and children of God. As we enter the fall season, we will begin adult and children’s education each Sunday; Bible Study each Tuesday, several opportunities for service to our neighbors and to our fellow members, vibrant and meaningful worship, and many other opportunities to tend to our spiritual lives that will reflect our Creator in each other and in our common work, study, and prayer life.

Seek Christ, Benedict insists, but you don’t have to go very far to find Him. His image is reflected in ourselves and in everyone else.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Life is difficult. We are bombarded by choices. We choose where and what we want to eat. We choose where we want to shop and the brands we want to buy; we choose what automobiles we want to drive; we choose what movies we want to see; we choose how we want to spend our time and how we want to spend our money; we even choose what church we want to go to. We choose, we choose, we choose. And in our culture, it seems to have become our right – to choose what we want and how we want it.

The readings for today are really about choices. These choices can be very difficult, and all have profound consequences. But in every case, we are called to make decisions that lead to a deeper life with God. The big chasm of our lives is the decision to live our lives God’s way, the way God intended for us to live, or to live the world’s way, the way the world dictates we should live.

Especially in western, American consumerist culture, we are conditioned to make choices that make our lives easier or at least more fulfilled. Advertisements that seek our attention and loyalty attempt to win our choice to buy their product or service. If you pay attention to the underlying message in most advertisements, the message is that our lives will be better if we buy. This messaging is not limited to products and services from corporations and manufacturers. In an election year, we hear a similar tone: vote for me and you will be safer and richer. Vote for the other and you will be poorer and at higher risk. Vote for me and your life will be better. Vote for the other and your life will be worse.
We have the right, right? To live high quality lives, whether we vote for them or purchase them. We are entitled to the good life…and it can be yours for a 60-month payment plan. That’s what the world tells us. Repeatedly.

Since the beginning of religion as we know it; 5,000 years of our relationship to God or Yahweh through the Jewish and Hebrew faith, there has been the great chasm: God and humanity; God’s way and our way. For the last three Sundays, the Old Testament lesson has been from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s prophecy was written in the 6th century BCE during the Babylonian Exile. Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 597 and exiled the Israelites to Babylon to enter them into slave labor as well as the brightest and best of Israel, crippling Israel’s communal life and success as a nation. Jeremiah’s message to those in exile was to return to Yahweh, because Israel had lost their way. Last week, the first reading was from the beginning of chapter two of Jeremiah: The Lord says, “What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?” And it seemed their heart didn’t turn. Ten years later, in 587, a second exile took place. At this time Jeremiah felt that all was lost and that only God could make something out of the nightmare that Israel was living. So he likened Israel to clay that God (the potter) would mold into something new.
A potter working with clay was an everyday occurrence in the ancient world, so it was an understandable image. As a result of his watching the potter at work, Jeremiah receives God’s instruction to issue a call for repentance. This call for repentance includes an unequivocal warning that the consequences for failure to honor God can be severe. The community needs to know that God’s dealings with the nation extend to the consequences of covenant theology. Covenant theology is a theology of rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience. As in our Baptismal Covenant, we honor our promises to God and to each other, and when we fall into sin, we promise to repent. This is the call that Jeremiah is making to his people and the nation of Israel.
As humans on our journey with Christ we remain pinched between our desire to live God’s way versus the way the world influences us to live. Our decisions matter. So many of our decisions, even small seemingly insignificant ones, lead us closer to God and others away from God. I don’t believe in a vengeful, wrathful God that we might find in the OT, but I do believe that if we fail to nurture our spiritual lives, most specifically, our lives in Christ, then we will drift and miss the blessings that God promises us in the life of faith; promises of grace and peace in our living.
In the gospel teaching today, we hear that “large crowds were traveling with Jesus.” Now, if Jesus were a good church programmer, he would have dispatched some of the apostles to get everyone’s name, phone number, and home address from the members of this large crowd. He would have made sure everyone felt welcome. Perhaps he would have fretted over his sermons, making sure that each one was a practical, uplifting message that the crowd would come back for again and again. If they were singing psalms, he would have made sure the tunes were easy and appealing to the largest group possible.
But Jesus wasn’t a good church programmer. This is because Jesus wasn’t calling crowds; he was calling disciples. Jesus wasn’t concerned with being popular; he was concerned with helping people transform their lives. Jesus was leading people toward eternity, not temporal things like material success.
When Jesus sees the crowds, his instinct is not to wow them. His instinct is to make each person aware of the cost of being his disciple. It is this awareness of the journey that brings about transformation. He tells the crowd that unless they can detach completely from everything they are holding onto emotionally and physically, they can never really be his disciples. He tells them – and us – that we have to detach from our family and cultural norms, from our very lives as we know them. We have to be ready to take up our cross. Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” End of sentence.
The conditions that Jesus sets forth here for true discipleship are radical, uncompromising, and even harsh. First, Jesus calls for the denial of close family ties and even of life itself. Family obligations were central in Hebrew culture; but even the most cherished relationships must be renounced if they stand in the way of faithful discipleship. Those who follow Jesus will have a new family of disciples based on their loyalty to Christ and one another.
So we find ourselves as confronted and challenged once again by scripture and Jesus’ teachings to order our priorities. Although I believe in a forgiving and loving God whose Son came to teach us how to live for the Father, I believe that the accountability and expectations are high for the Christian believer. The door into the church is the beginning point for us. Once we have decided that we want to be sojourners with Jesus, then we must examine our lives and prioritize.
Jesus never said “don’t have a life and stay at church 24/7”, but he did say, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Harsh and scary words for sure. But to keep this in context with the thought of his day, Jesus’ word ‘hate’ means to prioritize. If our current priorities get in the way of our relationship to God, then we have a really hard time with his call to discipleship. The imagery here calls us to live the covenant which God calls us into: To love the Lord your God with all of your heart mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. All is renounced for the sake of Jesus. Even our possessions. The gospel passage ends with Jesus saying, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” We must be ready always to give up, put aside and renounce everything that seems important to us. We are called to stop seeking fulfillment from our own means and the world’s means, and to start seeking faithfulness to God in Christ. It was Jeremiah’s call to his people 2,600 years ago and it stands today, as we too are a people of covenant.
One must be willing to renounce anything that stands in the way of a full commitment to discipleship. Discipleship demands sacrifice. The imagery of taking up one’s cross must have been striking to the disciples before the crucifixion, and even more so in the days and years immediately following the crucifixion. A fitting description as discipleship demands sacrifice: sacrifice of one’s own dreams and ambitions, sacrifice of one’s pleasures, sacrifice of control over one’s own life. In exchange, however, discipleship offers a new vision of God’s will for our lives, new joys, and an acceptance that God is in control. Discipleship means counting the cost, which is often large. Count the cost, Jesus said, if you want to be my disciples. You’re liable to lose a lot if you choose to become a disciple, but what you gain will be immeasurably greater.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Safe Places

I got to thinking about “safe places” this past week. There are those of us who take safety for granted, living lives with low risk. Those who live in gated communities or who send their children to upper-class or private schools, seek safety in their lives. Sometimes these safe places are intruded upon. Gated communities are not entirely impervious to theft and violence. Upper class schools have been in the news lately where young women have been violated and abused. We all seek safe places.

We believed our schools were safe; then came the shooting at Sandy Hook. We believed our churches were safe; then came the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church. We believed our work places were safe; then came the shooting in San Bernardino. We all seek safe places.

We seek safe places in our homes, in our churches, and in our places of employment, and sometimes we take these safe places for granted. Even Disney World is supposed to be a safe place for a child. Over the last week I learned something new about safe places. Our sisters and brothers who are counted among the LGBT community seek places to gather for safety. Not necessarily from gun violence, but from those of us in the more mainstream community, usually of white privilege and traditional family structure, who may not understand those different from us. Pulse nightclub in Orlando was one of those safe places. I should say, with the perseverance of those who are a part of that community, Pulse nightclub will be a safe place again. We all seek safe places.

When our safe places are violated, especially by the terror of a mass shooting, it is paralyzing, confusing, disorienting, shocking, scary. Therefore, I as the rector and pastoral leader of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, declare this parish a safe place for all who come seeking the knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ who did not passively tolerate those different from him, but embraced them. People of various backgrounds, races, and nationalities are counted among this congregation. This is a safe place for you. Members of the LGBTQ community and their parents and loved ones are counted among this congregation. This is a safe place for you.

In the words of my friend and Dean of our Cathedral, Barkley Thompson, “This is, I believe, part of our collective challenge. We in the United States have striven to become a tolerant society. But mere tolerance doesn’t breed familiarity, and without familiarity there is little chance for understanding. Tolerance is a passive virtue. It says, in essence, “I can abide your presence in proximity to me, but I do not want to know you. I have plumbed the depths of the Gospels, and nowhere do I find Jesus exhibiting tolerance. Rather, Jesus embraces. Embrace is an active virtue, the preeminent Gospel virtue. Again and again, Jesus embraces the one who is outcast, who exists on the margins, who is maligned. Through his embrace, which comes in the forms both of physical contact and words of acceptance, Jesus declares that, in God, there are no outcasts, there are no margins, and woe be it to anyone who maligns any one of God’s blessed and beloved children.”

In light of the horrific murders this past weekend in Orlando, we are asked by our Bishop for our continued prayers for the repose of the dead and strength and comfort for their families and friends, and for healing for those wounded in the shooting. He asks us also to pray for the first responders and for the medical professionals in Orlando, for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and for wisdom to confront violence and hate with love.