01-26-20 HUMBLE BLESSINGS

Matthew 5:5 / January 26, 2020
Westminster by the Sea Presbyterian Church

Radford Rader, D.Min.

Looking at the lectionary readings when I had to choose sermon scriptures and titles a couple of months ago, I came face to face with the Beatitudes. Now the problem is that there are 8 beatitudes in Matthew. No one can do justice to all the Beatitudes in one sermon. I have this week and next to preach and I am not up to even doing four each week. They are just too rich and too important to skim the surface and not dive deep into them. My solution was to choose two, one for each week. This week is “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” I chose “meek” because it is so foreign to the way we think in our world today.
The problem with “meek” is it sounds like “weak”. We mix the two together. In a newspaper column, Bill Farmer wrote about J. Upton Dickson, who founded a group of submissive people. It was called “DOORMATS” and it stood for “Dependent Organization of Really Meek and Timid Souls”. Their motto was “The meek shall inherit the earth – if it is ok with everybody.” For us, meek describes doormat, pushover, one who never stands up for self, overly submissive and compliant bending like an overcooked stalk of asparagus, spiritless. None of us want to be the child who, every day, hands over his lunch money to the bully. Our society rewards: strong, shrewd, standing up for oneself, striving for success whatever it takes, never accepting a slight and striking back whenever wronged. Of course, this image of meek isn’t biblical. Moses, who stood up to Pharaoh and led recalcitrant Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, is said to be “very meek, more than all mortals that were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)
Meek, in the Bible, is not weak. Rather, it defines a right relationship with God. Meek is to know God in all God’s greatness and goodness, power and love. It is to know who we are in comparison to God and that we are not God. Meek does not count equality with God a thing to be grasps but humbles oneself before God. Those who are meek have given themselves into the care of God and guidance of God. They do not need to prove themselves or justify their worth, for God gives them worth as a beloved child. We may be mortal and of little status in the world but in the eyes of God we are precious and of great worth. The meek are not swelled with pride but humble to be chosen. There was a story in the Ormond Observer this week about Jack Simpson, an elementary student who was one of only 200 students of the over 1,000 who auditioned for the Florida All-State Elementary Choir. His teacher said, “He’d sung in class, but he never really was the kind of kid that’s like, “Hey, look at me, I’m this superstar singer. He never wanted the attention. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”
Jack Wellman, has written, “Everyone who has humility has meekness and everyone with meekness is likely to be humble.” The two go together. Meekness with God breeds humility in us. Humility is an attitude about us gained from of our knowledge of God. We don’t have to be a superstar. We don’t crave attention. We don’t make a big deal about ourselves, making sure everybody knows it. We are proud but not boastful. We are confident but do not demand attention and applause. We can stand in the shadows and be happy; we don’t need to be always in the spotlight to be satisfied. Humility is not self-deprecation. Frederick Buechner writes that humility does not say, “I am not much of a bridge player when you know perfectly well you are.” He goes on to say, “If you really aren’t much of a bridge player, you’re apt to be rather proud of yourself for admitting it so humbly. This kind of humility is a form of low comedy.” In humility we know our gifts with gratitude to God and seek to use them for God’s glory not our own. We can acknowledge achievement and accept applause but always without hubris. In other words, we do not think too highly of ourselves, yet we also know that we are gifted and talented.
There is something of a progression that happens. It starts with meekness in relationship to God. Humility, based on meekness, becomes the attitude we have about ourselves. The Greek word translated “meek” is translated just as many times as “gentle. Where humility is the attitude, we have toward ourselves; gentleness is our attitude toward others that comes from being meek. Jesus describes himself a “gentle and lowly in heart.” Gentleness comes from a quietness of spirit that is at peace with God and oneself. Gentleness rest in humility that doesn’t need to lord it over others or control every situation because God is in control and the Spirit is at work. Gentleness does not react in anger; it may not respond at all come back in love and compassion. When others get loud; the gentle remain quiet according to the proverb, “a soft answer turns away wrath.” Gentleness understands that others are not perfect any more than we are perfect and therefore does not have the need to be harsh and condescending but can respond, gently in calm, caring ways that disarm and diffuse. The Letter of James says, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty and insincerity. Certainly, in our day and this time we need more of this language and behavior that what we are seeing, hearing and practicing.
Abraham Lincoln was not weak, but he was meek, and humble and could be very gentle. He knew that he was not a handsome man. When told that someone called him two-faced, he did not lash out but simply replied, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” He did not let his appearance bother him, but others used it to attack him. When they were both practicing law, Edwin Stanton would often call him “gorilla” in public debates. Yet Abraham Lincoln was above the fray and did not let insults get the best of him or alter his opinion of others. Lincoln respected, Edwin Stanton, and when he became President asked him to join his cabinet as Secretary of War. Those close to the President objected but when pressed, Lincoln said, “He’s the best man for the job.” When Lincoln lay dying, Stanton was there and looking on his rugged face said, “There is the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”
Meek, humble and gentle changes us and others for the good. We are blessing and a blessed for we both help build the kingdom and have a place in it.

01-19-20 FINDING JESUS


John 1: 29-42

Today we are going to the land of Loch Lomond as we think about faithful people, special family members, and a nation that eventually became Presbyterian thanks to John Knox. One man, Rupert Besley, gave this humorous tourist tip about how to pronounce the Scottish “ch” sound. He writes: “Place one half-stick of freshly cut celery (4 ½ inches long) in the mouth at a right angle to the tongue and stand well back from those [with whom you wish to converse.] In summer months, rhubarb may be used instead.” [Scotland for Beginners, Moffat, Scotland, Lochar Publishing, 1990, p.7] If I did that for my sermon, this first row would become a splash area! Now you have your Scottish lesson for today! Next, a story:
A country preacher brought his congregation to a nearby river to be baptized and saved. As they gathered at the river, a man they didn’t know walked up; he’d been swimming but asked if he could join the group. The preacher welcomed him and said in a loud voice: “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?” “Yes, I am!” the man declared. So the preacher took him, immersed him, and then brought him back up, dripping wet. “Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asked him. “No,” declared the man uncertainly. The preacher pushed his head under the water again and held him down a little longer. “Now brother, have you found Jesus?” Again the man said “No!” A third time the preacher pushed his head under the water and held him under for 10 seconds. Up he came. “NOW have you found Jesus?” the preacher thundered. “No!” the man said. “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Finding Jesus has been something that our forebears did all the way back to Peter, James, John, and Andrew. It is something that often happens by word of mouth, as happened in our text today, or like hungry people telling others where to find food. Inexplicably, in 1983 when I was living in Arkansas, the federal government allotted huge quantities of American Cheese to be sent to local counties for distribution to hungry people. Cheese! In our county, our Ministerial Association did not advertise the cheese, but we set up a distribution site at a local church. Within a week, the huge allotment of cheese was gone. D.T. Niles called evangelism when “One beggar tells another where to find bread.” But in 1983, it was one hungry person telling another where to find cheese! Seventy-four years ago, the Rev. Peter Marshall, who I mentioned in the opening words of your bulletin, wrote a sermon called “Mr. Jones, Meet the Master.” In it he said this:
The Church rests its unshakeable conviction that fellowship …with the living Lord is possible….The Gospel writers say that at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, he chose 12 men ….’that they might be with him.’ They were very ordinary men. By our standards of judgment, not a single one of them would been considered disciple material. Tax collectors; fisherman, peasants, simple folk, unlettered for the most part with no special qualification. But as Christ chose them he was seeing, not so much what they were, as what they were to become. [He called them, ministered, died, and rose from the dead, making many post resurrection appearances so people to this day may find him who seek him, even if they live after him.]
If this fellowship with the risen Lord, which the apostles experienced, is also available to us, how may we go about finding it? …Do we really want to find him? There is a glorious promise given in the days of old that has not yet faded from the written record: “If with all your hearts ye truly seek me, ye shall surely find me.”
[New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1949, p. 137]

So many people are searching these days. Some call themselves “spiritual.” How can Christians offer Jesus to them? A walk through a bookstore (which gets hard to find these days) shows shelves of books under headings like “Inspirational” or “Religion” or “Self Help.” That’s not all bad. People often search for things that bring peace to their soul. What is the church doing to connect people to the Master?” Mainline churches can keep and gain vitality when they offer the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in an understandable way. Newer congregations that meet in unconventional places reach others who perhaps never have been “churched,” and some come with trepidation. With the rise in popularity of escape rooms, one person this week posted a cartoon, saying, “The Latest in terrifying Escape Rooms: visiting a new church!

In the mid 1990s, the number of songs in the genre “Christian Pop Music” soared. It is now fourth in the list of popular genres with Talk/News radio being number one! But on the dedicated Christian stations, people can find what suits them—country, rock, even chant. So music is one way people can find Jesus! In England in the times of John and Charles Wesley, holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in people’s homes reached many people hungry to know Christ than what they found in the high liturgy of the day at the Church of England. So the Methodist Church was born, having one spiritual beggar telling another where to find bread! You might have heard the hymn “Break Thou the Bread of Life” and thought it described communion. But it was meant to describe the Word of God being shared as Jesus shared it beside the Sea. In our own day, new congregations are taking root in the Presbyterian denomination, not as much through the old ways of wanting a multipurpose building at first, but groups instead are gathering for Bible studies in parks, in gyms, in schools, and even in bars. They call it, “a new way of doing church,” and some have no plans to own their own building. Ever since the middle ages, the church has been reformed and always reforming if it wants to help others know Jesus and make him known. I believe that people are helped by meeting Him. But how do we invite others to meet him? Listen to what happened in today’s text.

John the Baptist had d introduce people to Jesus in a unique way. He called Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And with those words, John said a mouthful. Perhaps John’s words reminded people of the Passover, of the unblemished lamb, the sacrifice, and forgiveness. John tried to say to people who followed him: “No! I’m not the one! This is the one!” And he pointed to Jesus. Often I invite people to our church, but I hope you might invite people to our church too! Studies have shown that when a preacher invites someone to church, 10% will try it; but if you invite someone to church, 90% will try it! So here I am, spending my life inviting others to know Jesus, when you might be more effective at it! Since Jesus physically died on the cross, meeting Jesus happens now in spiritual ways; sometimes as we hear our Bibles sometimes as the Bible is preached, sometimes it’s in the sharing of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, in prayers, in times of silence and even on weekend retreats, summer camps, or mission trips. Churches try to foster possibilities for meeting Jesus, and teaching members how to invite others to know him. I want people to try this church, or another church, as a pathway to meeting Jesus. Then as we open our Bibles, I can say to them with authenticity: “Meet the Master.” “Meet the Lamb of God.” “Meet the Savior.”

In verses 41 and 42 of John chapter 1, Andrew—the patron Saint of Scotland—does three things to introduce his brother Simon (who Jesus later called Peter) to Jesus:
-First, he finds Simon.
-Second, he tells him, “We have found the Messiah!”
-And third, he brings his brother to Jesus.
Can you imagine how many more people would know Jesus if we followed those three steps? Talk to people who seem to be searching; tell them in your own way that you know a Savior who can help when they are lost and who loves them unconditionally. Then bring them to church to hear that message.
Sometimes we think of Jesus as far away; we can infer that from our prayers to a “Heavenly Father” that makes God seem to be almost unreachable above the clouds. Also, our hymns have phrases like: [On a Hill Far Away; “Along the Dusty Roads of Galilee; High on Heaven’s Throne.”] Yet all along the Spirit of the living Lord is right beside us. He is with us. We are not alone. Peter Marshall said Mr. Jones could meet the Master; and you can too! People in Jesus’ day wanted to see God. And to those inquiries Jesus said in John 14: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” And he said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20] We can thank John Calvin and his Christian school in Geneva for deepening John Knox’s love for and understanding of Jesus. We can thank John and Charles Wesley for helping people in England grow closer to Jesus. And we can thank Felix Mendelsohn’s for reminding us of a message we find in Jeremiah 29: in his Oratorio called “Elijah,” those moving words are sung: “If with all your heart you truly seek me, you shall surely find me.”
Search for the Lord truly, and truly, you shall find the Lord.

Jeffrey A. Sumner January 19, 2020

01-12-20 RETURNING TO THE JORDAN


Matthew 3: 13-17

Presbyterian minister Mihee Kim-Kort helps us imagine what a visit to the Jordan River would be like—actually or spiritually—with these observations:
While baptism represents many things, for some Christians it is first and foremost a reminder that we are God’s beloved. That is rooted in Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, which clearly marks the beginning of his ministry… [Christian Century, January 1, 2020, p. 19]

We might think the location was arbitrary—this place where John was baptizing others and then baptized Jesus—but it was an important location even before Jesus’ baptism. It was here that Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan to claim it for God. The battle, as the song “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” describes, was at the Jericho city wall, not far from the Jordan River. There, at that place at the river, priests carried the Ark of the Covenant across the riverbed into what became the promised land. Listen to these words from Joshua 3:17 “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.” You probably have remembered that God parted the waters of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape from Pharaoh in the event called “The Exodus.” But this was another God event, when the flow of a river stopped!
What else happened there? The great prophet Elijah stood before King Ahab—who did evil things in the sight of the Lord—and declared: “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by his word.” And the word of the Lord came to [Elijah], saying: “Depart from here and turn eastward, [and go to the brook that is] east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” [I Kings 17: 1-3] A dry land depends on water sources. So Israel had brooks, wadis (or springs), the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a freshwater lake,) and the important Jordan River, fed by its headwaters on the towering Mount Hermon. The Jordan was a stronger river in those days; Israel today has developed irrigation for crops that siphons away a good portion of the Jordan waters. But a water source—like a river—was necessary for physical life, such water can renew our spiritual life as well.

You may or may not remember your baptism depending on your age; and others may not have ever been baptized at all or thought about doing it. Let me give you a primer: Baptism by John was offered to those who repented of things in their lives and pulled them away from God. So John, like us, was surprised to see Jesus—a man he already knew—coming to be baptized. John saw himself as the forerunner of the one coming in the name of the Lord. John recognized that, and said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you!” But Jesus still asked him for baptism. John complied. Jesus there, dripping with his baptismal waters, had this happen: “The heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove …. And lo, a voice from heaven [said] this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:13-17] You might say, “Of course God is excited about the baptism of his Son! But be excited about my baptism? Really?” Today I want you to embrace that thought. I want you to think that as you told other people about the plan for your own baptism, or your plan to baptize your child, others either planned to be present too or to celebrate with you! God does both with the baptism of his children on earth: God is both present and celebrating. The book of Zephaniah is sometimes called “God’s love letter.” Hear these words in it, written as God’s people were away for so long were returning home: “The Lord your God is in your midst …he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival.” [Zephaniah 3: 17]
Modern Christian pastor and writer Max Lucado puts it this way: “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it!” Picture God being excited about the day of your baptism; a day when his Holy Spirit begins to enter your life, or your child’s life; a day of new beginnings. That is what happens at a baptism—theologically St. Augustine called it “An outward sign of an inward grace.” It is a day of rejoicing on earth and in heaven. It is an event that Jesus knew was not only important, but also joyful. So, according to the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, some of Jesus’ last words were called “The Great Commission. He proclaimed: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Some people—especially those who have struggled in life with poverty, addictions, or poor choices and their consequences—find baptism exceptionally meaningful; a do-over time; a time to be washed clean; a time to hear, perhaps for the first time, a voice that says: “You are loved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus told a number of stories about those who needed welcome and salvation. People like the Pharisees, who had attitudes of entitlement, were often his audience. One of his best parables those who feel lost and those who feel entitled was in Luke 15. There we find Jesus describing a Father who rejoices over a lost son, one who went to a far country and not only fed pigs, but also was so hungry he would have eaten what the pigs ate. Consider that image. The father had another son—one who was hard-working and faithful—and that son resented the lavish grace his father offered to “that other son of yours.” Now, consider all the people, of every color and walk of life, gathering at the river in heaven, the one described in the book of Revelation, having passed from this life to the next. Who might they be? Who will be there? Who might we be surprised by who we see? I want to finish today with a long quote that I will offer without further comment. Southern author Flannery O’ Connor wrote an insightful short story that takes place in a doctor’s waiting room! (Heaven’s waiting room??) The author of our Men’s Bible Study, Dr. Thomas W. Walker, says this about it:
In her short story “Revelation,” Flannery O’ Connor introduces her readers to Mrs. Turpin, a middle-class white lady in the deep south of the mid twentieth century…. For Mrs. Turpin everyone has a place, and her own place is in the upper echelon. She looks with some disgust at people she believes are beneath her, including those she calls “white trash” and the [people of color] in her town. Mrs. Turpin’s husband, Claud, has been injured by a cow on their farm and they find themselves in a doctor’s waiting room. As they wait, Mrs. Turpin both out loud and to herself, makes snide comments, sizing up everyone in the room, and she finds some solace in the thought that her lot is not that of anyone else in the room.
[She says aloud in the waiting room:] “If it’s one thing I am, its grateful. When I think of who all I could have been besides myself and what all I got, a little of everything and good disposition besides, I just feel like shouting, ‘Thank you Jesus for making everything the way it is! It could have been different!’” In response to that soliloquy, a young college girl who had gone away to school up north, (another failing that Mrs. Turpin notes,) throws a book at Mrs. Turpin. The mother of the young woman and the nurse end up having to restrain the girl, and she is eventually sedated, [but not before shouting hateful things to Mrs. Turpin. [Mrs. Turpin dismisses the girl as a lunatic.] The words from the waiting room [and there were more of them] continued to haunt Mrs. Turpin until finally she returns home and actually has a vision, standing by the family pigpen of her farm. {She finished feeding her pigs and began to wash her hands. Flannery O’ Connor closed her story with these words:

“A visionary light settled in [Mrs. Turpin’s] eyes …. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time, and bands of blacks in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people …like herself and Claud, who had always had a little of everything…They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key! Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.
At length she got down, and turned off the faucet, and in her slow way [trudged] on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her, the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she [most] heard were the voices of the souls, climbing upward in the starry field, shouting “Hallelujah!”

Please join me as we offer a prayer in song to God with our next hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Since it IS a prayer, we will conclude it with an Amen.

Jeffrey A. Sumner January 12, 2020

01-05-20 THE GIFT

John 1: 1-5;14

At Christmas we give and receive gifts; they might delight us or disappoint us. Finding or creating those gifts takes our time and our energy, as they should. Gifts rightly given, are expressions of our love, or our appreciation, or our desire to participate in a traditional season of giving. But at the heart of it all, is “The Gift.” The Gift is Jesus, born in a stable, and perhaps already born in your heart. If not, you can even prepare him room today. What other gift have you received this year or some other year, that touched your heart, or changed your life? People have written about such gifts and they have been placed into the annals of our seasonal literature. Take, for example the short story by William Sydney Porter, known by his pen name of O. Henry. His story, “The Gift of the Magi,” starts with these words: One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty of it was in pennies. Three times Della counted it…. And the next day would be Christmas. There was nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it…. There were two possessions that Della, and her husband Jim, called valuable. “One was Jim’s gold watch, which had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair.” It was beautiful, cascading, and brunette, falling below her knees when combed out. So—spoiler alert—Della sold her hair to buy Jim a beautiful chain on which he could attach his gold pocket watch, while Jim sold his gold watch to buy expensive hair clips—really hair combs—made of pure tortoise shell with jeweled rims for Della’s long hair. But now what was the use of combs for Della’s short hair? And what use was the chain without Jim’s watch? O. Henry concludes his story saying:
The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. … And here, I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”

So, there are gifts of sacrifice, one of which has been described in the first chapter John, when the essence of God—a gift of love—was born into a world that would receive him not. It was the supreme sacrificial gift, the one around which others may aspire. God—safely in the world of the eternal—came to the world of the mortal. Through the ages, there have been stories of those who have sacrificed their lives for their friends, their families, or for others in arms. More recently, there have been stories of people who have sacrificially given a kidney, or bone marrow, or blood so that others may have life. What a gift that is. I have given blood, and I have decided to be an organ donor at my demise, but those other gifts are truly sacrificial.

This season sometimes includes sacrificial gifts, but most often gifts of love and joy. The gift described in John chapter one is both. Dr Brian Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia wrote a significant article for the Dec 23, 2019 issue of Presbyterians Outlook. Here is an excerpt:
God saw a world struggling in injustice, brokenness, and oppression….God came to this world. The Word became flesh and lived among us. Divinity incarnated itself into flesh. And we saw the glory, the glory of light breaking into darkness, so that all who encountered this light-infested flesh would see and know the truth of God’s intention for this world. God committed…. The author of the Gospel of John explained it this way: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” ….The moment the Word became flesh, the Word took a side. A human side. For there is nothing more human than flesh.
And that was God’s great gift. Gifts from the heart are great gifts.

In this season, other stories have helped expand our image of what a “gift” truly can be. Back in 1941 American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis wrote a song that at first was called “The Carol of the Drum,” but became known as “The Little Drummer Boy.” “In the lyrics, the singer relates how as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the Nativity of Jesus. Without a gift for the infant, the little drummer boy played his drum with approval from Jesus’ mother, Mary. And, referring to Jesus, the little boy said, “I played my best for him,” and “He smiled at me.” [Wikipedia]

“The Gift” has been the title of at least two modern books, one by Richard Paul Evans, and one by Lewis Hyde. But THE gift, the gift to the world, is Emmanuel: “God with us.” The gift was a baby who was placed in a rudimentary manger for his bed. The gift was surrounded by Mary and Joseph, but also by animals and shepherds. Such a place, such a way, for “the gift” to be given. And yet, he was; and he is. That gift has inspired stories over the centuries, along with acts of love and kindness. The Gift of Jesus may have entered or touched your heart this year or another year. Good! If not, as I said, you can still prepare room in your heart for him today. But what other gift has touched your heart this year? Cherish it; give thanks for it, even as you give thanks for Him, the Lord Jesus. Today, focus on the one who was born a King, so that wise men who read the stars would travel long distances to bring him the most meaningful gifts they had.
May this day be the day you remember “The Gift,” and the gifts.
Let us pray: Hear our prayer, O God, as we come from the old year into this new one. As we call on you for guidance, wisdom, and comfort, remind us of your love, and always, of your gift. Amen.

Jeffrey A. Sumner January 5, 2020