Monday, February 13, 2017

Setting the Bar Kinda Low



Brad Sullivan
6 Epiphany, Year A
February 12, 2017
Emmanuel, Houston
Sirach 15:15-20
Matthew 5:21-37

Setting the Bar Kinda Low

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  That’s where we left off last week in Jesus’ sermon in Matthew chapter 5.  At a first hearing, it sounds like Jesus is giving a major, “you’ve got to be good enough for God” kind of statement.  “You’ve got to be righteous enough in God’s eyes in order to be good enough for God.”  That’s certainly where my teenage brain took this passage when I read it back in high school.  “Man, I’ve got to be even better that the religious leaders in order to be good enough for God?”  Yikes!

Well, I’ve got a few critiques to that particular understanding of Jesus and the Gospel.  The first is, let’s face it, if Jesus wants us to be better people than the scribes and the Pharisees, he’s setting the bar kinda low.  Just about any time Jesus mentions the scribes and the Pharisees, he’s saying not to be like them, calling them hypocrites.  So, not too much of a high standard of perfection there.  The second critique of the “You’ve got to be good enough for God” understanding of Jesus’ sermon is this:  “You don’t have to be good enough for God.”  Striving to be good enough for God, striving to be righteous for one’s own sake is missing the point of Jesus entirely.  Jesus is much more concerned with people’s well being than he is with people’s righteousness.  That’s the lesson I get from our story in Matthew’s Gospel today, not reward and punishment, but Jesus’ genuine concern and care for the well-being of people. 

Several years ago, I was gently pushing our then three year old son, Rhys, on a tire swing in the front yard of our house.  We were having a lovely time, and then our neighbor’s granddaughter came over.  She was about six, and she asked if she could push Rhys.  To be honest, I had some trepidation about the prudence of allowing such a young girl to push my son, but not wanting to be an overly protective helicopter parent, I decided to just let them play.  That worked really well for a about 20 seconds, after which time, she spun the tire swing too hard, and Rhys fell off the swing, breaking his collar bone.  Way to go, Dad.

Amidst Rhys’ crying and my checking to see if he was as hurt as I feared, the little girl began apologizing profusely, the fear in her voice and face communicating two things:  “I’m sad I hurt Rhys,” eclipsed almost totally by “It was an accident; I’m so afraid that I’m in serious trouble.”  For my part, I had almost forgotten that our neighbor’s granddaughter was still even there, focused exclusively on Rhys and what appeared even by looking at it to be a broken collar bone.  I was certainly not interested at all in my neighbor’s granddaughter being in trouble.  I knew it was an accident, and my only concern was for my son’s well being, not the girl’s being in trouble or not.  Assuring her that it was ok, I quickly scooped Rhys up and took him to the hospital. 

What strikes me about that story is or neighbor’s granddaughter’s concern about being in trouble eclipsing her concern for Rhys’ well-being.  Now, to be fair, she was a little kid.  Of course that’s how she felt.  She didn’t know what else to do or how else to deal with the situation, so no chastisement of her intended in any way.

But, now imagine that the little girl was an adult who had just accidentally hurt someone, and imagine this adult is more concerned with being in trouble or even worse, being righteous in God’s eyes, than this person is concerned with the well-being of the other person.  That is the situation I find when we hear Jesus critiquing the religion and way of life of the scribes, Pharisees, and other religious leaders of his day.  Be it the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the religious leaders pass by on the other side of the road when they see someone hurt, or be it the actual practices of the religious leaders in which they are shown to take money from poor widows in order to pay a temple tax, or pray about how wonderful they are compared to those around them, we see a group of religious leaders concerned with their own righteousness before God, worrying about being in trouble, while having almost no concern for the well-being of the people around them.

Jesus, in his constant healing of people; in his care for the orphan, the widow, the downtrodden, and the outcast; and in his preaching, including the sermon of his that we hear today, Jesus showed how much he cared for people’s well being, and how interested he wasn’t in people being righteous before God for their own sake.  Our being righteous before God, being good enough to please God, Jesus took care of that on the cross.  Jesus’ desire for us was then not that we would continue to be worried about being righteous or good enough before God, but rather that we would love God and love people.  From a place of fear about our own righteousness before God, Jesus sent us on a quest to love God and love people without fear.  That quest of love is what we hear Jesus teaching about in his words that we heard today, a far more complicated, rewarding, and beautiful understanding of life than simple reward and punishment.

In the teaching that we heard today, Jesus was basically going through the 10 Commandments, saying that on the quest of love, a basic rule based keeping of the 10 Commandments is not sufficient.  Some probably hear his words and are rather disheartened.  “Not only can we not kill people, we’re not even supposed to hate them?  No fair, that’s way too hard!  Not only can we not cheat on our wives and our husbands, we’re not even supposed to fantasize about it?”  From a trying to be good enough standpoint, no we can’t live up to that.  We’re not perfect.  We’re not going to be.  Jesus is teaching that the point of the commandments is not to be perfect, not to be righteous before God for one’s own sake.  Rather, the point of the 10 Commandments is to live in such a way that your life is a quest of love, a quest of loving God and loving people without fear. 

See, the 10 Commandments are a pretty good start to things, but you can keep all 10 of them and still be a pretty terrible person.  Imagine talking to someone who makes sure to keep the Commandments.  This person worships God, has no idols, goes to church on Sunday and does no other work, has never committed perjury or lied about someone to get them in trouble; he doesn’t talk back to his parents; and he’s basically content with what he’s got and doesn’t steal from others.  He sounds like a pretty good guy.  Now let’s say he then starts talking about how righteous he is, and you call him on it because you’ve noticed some rather less than wonderful habits of this person. 

“So, I hear you saying how righteous you are, but you’re also kind of a bully.  You routinely beat people up when they anger you, and are constantly insulting and verbally abusing others.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true, but hey, at least I haven’t killed anybody!”  Check, commandment kept. 

“Uh huh.  Ok, well how can you be so righteous, considering how terribly you treat your wife?”
“Hey, I don’t have to treat her well, I just have to not commit adultery.  I haven’t.”  Check, commandment kept.

See, there are all kinds of ways we can be really terrible to each other and still keep the Commandments.  Even in following Jesus’ more stringent code, we can find ways to hurt each other.  “Ok, Jesus, I got it.  No adultery, no ogling other women, and no divorce.  Beyond that, I can be as big of a prat to my wife as I want.”  Far from giving us a more stringent set of rules for us to follow in order to be righteous before God for our own sake, Jesus is showing us that the whole point of the commandments, is to care about the well being of others as God does. 

Now, there’s still this part where Jesus says that if we treat people terribly, we should be thrown into the hell of fire.  He’s saying we should be thrown into Gehenna, the burning garbage dump outside of Jerusalem.  Have you ever known someone who was such a horrible louse that they seemed like human garbage?  That’s what Jesus is talking about.  People matter so much to Jesus, and so he taught that if you treat people terribly, you’ve turned yourself into human garbage, good for nothing but the burning garbage dump, metaphorically speaking.  Far from actually wanting us to cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes, Jesus is teaching that even small practices of treating others terribly can lead to an entire life of treating others terribly, so stop with the seemingly insignificant practices in which you treat others without love so that you don’t end up living your entire life treating others without love.

Jesus is showing us the heart of God, a heart not interested in keeping rules for one’s own sake, a heart not interested in fear and  punishment, but a heart interested in using the rules to show us how better to love people and to care for their well being.  Jesus really is far more concerned with people’s well being, fare more concerned with love than he is with people’s self-serving righteousness. 

Jesus is inviting us to follow him in a life that is a quest of love, a quest to give and receive love.  In this quest, we have our eyes and our hearts open to check in with ourselves and ask, “am I really living as a loving person?  Am I full of anger and resentment?  Maybe I’m generally ok, but need some help with loving right now.  Maybe I should seek that help.”  In this quest of love that Jesus has given us, we don’t go it alone.  Love cannot be a solitary venture. 

We’re on this quest with each other, we have our eyes and our hearts open to the people around us.  Are they doing ok?  Do they have enough?  Do I have enough?  Do I have more than I need?  Is the path that my life is on serving only myself, or is the path that my life is on also being a light of love for others?  Is the path that our lives are on serving as a light of love for others.  That is the path of the quest Jesus has set us on, a quest in which we care not about our own righteousness before God for our own sake, a quest not of reward and punishment.  Jesus has set us on the quest of genuine concern for the care and well-being of others, the quest in which we love God and love and serve people without fear, the quest of love. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball

"Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball." (Colossians 3:21 - translation mine)  That might be some of the best parenting advice I've ever heard, especially from Paul.  He may have said something closer to "Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart." (Colossians 3:21 - NRSV), but the message is about the same.  Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.  The words were originally spoken as a Phil Hartman voice-over during the Saturday Night Live commercial for "Happy Fun Ball."  You can see the video below - (skip to 12 seconds...it's not great quality, but what I could find).




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8zOtZlO52k&t=102s

Our children are so often a joy.  They are happy.  They are fun.  They should also come with a warning label at least as long as Happy Fun Ball's...especially the part about not taunting them or provoking them (in Ephesians 6:4, Paul writes not to provoke them to anger).

The need for a warning label like Paul's and Happy Fun Ball's has proved very true with my kids for one simple reason.  They are kids...and partially made from an unknown glowing substance that fell to earth, presumably from outer space.  They don't have control of their emotions yet.  They don't yet know how to respond well to perceived threats (including but not limited to:  not getting their way, being told what to do, consequences given for actions, bedtime, baths, etc.).  

Our challenge as parents is not to respond in kind.  Walk away.  Breathe.  Wait to respond until your emotions are back in check and your frontal lobe is fully functional once again.  Otherwise, in your response, you'll likely be taunting Happy Fun Ball, and we all know what happens then.  Boom!  Escalation, shouting from parents, and kids ending up feeling badly about themselves, "losing heart" as Paul wrote.

Our kids learn to behave from us, and when they see us responding to their worst behavior with our worst behavior, they learn to continue to respond in kind.  They also unfortunately learn some unintended lessons.  They learn that they are not as safe, as loved, or even as wanted as they actually are.  They lose heart and begin to believe there is something wrong with them, rather than something wrong with their behavior.  (Yes, I understand that theologically, we're all messed up, but that doesn't diminish our absolute worth to God and each other!)

Not provoking your children to anger is incredibly difficult when kids are being...well...kids.  This is one warning label, however, that should be obeyed as best and as often as possible.  Give discipline, but let the shouting and tantrums be your children's and not yours.  Kids are happy, and fun, and they may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds, but as Paul wrote almost 2000 years ago to the faithful Christians in Collosae, "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."

For other parenting advice:
  • http://www.courageworks.com/shop/classes/gifts-of-imperfect-parenting
  • The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting:  Raising Children with Courage, Compassion and Connection (Audio Book)
  • Living Compass: http://www.livingcompass.org/parent/program.html/

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Smacked Upside the Head by Hope



Brad Sullivan
4 Epiphany, Year A
January 29, 2017
Emmanuel, Houston
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

Smacked Upside the Head by Hope

“I get it, guys.  The Gospel sounds foolish, and you feel kinda dumb for proclaiming it, but just go with it.  That’s how God works.”  That’s basically what Paul is saying in his letter to the Corinthians.  He says Jesus seems like foolishness to the nations, although for us, he calls Jesus the wisdom of God. “For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.”  It’s as if Paul is saying, “I get it, guys.  The Gospel sounds foolish, and you feel kinda dumb for proclaiming it, but just go with it.  That’s how God works.” 

Jesus’ words sounding foolish, at least on some level, certainly seems to be happening with the beatitudes, the beginning of his sermon in Matthew 5.  Now, I love, this sermon, this list of blessings, this list of people who are blessed.  I love that Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  That’s fantastic.  There is hope in those words, as if even in our darkest moments, life is still moving towards hope.  At the same time, I can see how Jesus’ words sound kinda foolish.

“I am so blessed because I’m really down right now.  I feel kind of bereft of spirit, life, energy…I just don’t have anything left right now.  I feel so blessed.”

What!?  I think his disciples might have been thinking the same thing.  “What are you talking about Jesus?”

“I am so blessed because I’m mourning and in deep sorrow over the death of my father.  It feels like the world stopped when he died, and everyone else is silly enough to think the world is still going.  I feel so blessed.”

“I am so blessed because I don’t really speak up for myself all that forcefully.  I don’t really insist on things going my way, and consequently, things often don’t go my way.  I feel so blessed.”

“I am so blessed because I’m not really all that righteous.  I really want to be, but I’m just not.  I keep on messing up, not loving God or others the way that I’d like to.  I feel so blessed.”

I’m guessing that kind of threw Jesus’ disciples for a loop.  It doesn’t make an overabundance of sense on the first hearing.  None of those really falls into the category of things or people that feel particularly blessed.  Maybe not necessarily cursed, but blessed?  Phrases regarding blessing that sound more familiar to us are, “I am so blessed because of all that God has given me:  my talent, my family, my success, my money, my friends, etc.  I’m blessed because of my many obvious blessings.”  That makes sense.  That we get. 

Looking again at what Jesus said about blessing, we kinda get some of the last ones.  The merciful, who doesn’t like them?  They’re merciful. They’re great; of course they’re blessed.  The peacemakers?  We love the peacemakers.  We give them prizes from Sweden.  Sometimes we kill them.  The peacemakers!  They’re great, of course they’re blessed.

The pure in heart?  Those who are persecuted for being righteous.  Well, of course God’s going to bless those people.  They’re his favorites, right?

But what about when they’re not anymore?  What if they stop being persecuted, or what if their hearts aren’t quite so pure anymore?  Are they still blessed?  Do they move to a “blessings pending” category?  I think if we were in charge, they probably would. 

I think if we were in charge, blessing would be given based on our perception of merit, and those who are considered blessed would be those whom we perceive as obviously blessed with whatever great things.

Fortunately, God doesn’t seem to work that way.  Those peacemakers who lose heart, who are so tired of living in a world of conflict, a world that just won’t make peace no matter how hard they try to make peace; those peacemakers who end up losing heart and being totally bereft of spirit, life, energy that they just don’t have anything left, God has already declared them blessed.  Not blessings pending or blessings removed.  God has declared the poor in spirit to be blessed.

Those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake so much that they just couldn’t take it anymore, and are no longer the paragons of righteousness that they had been even though they still really want to be righteous, God has already declared them blessed.  Not blessings pending or blessings removed.  God has declared those who hunger and thirst for righteousness to be blessed.

Blessed are the perfect?  No.  Blessed are those who never mess up?  No.  Blessed are those who are God’s favorites, those who do everything right?  Jesus didn’t say that.  There is no hope in that.  If that were the case, if God only declared as blessed those who did everything right, then God would be forever counting our sins against us and holding the carrot of blessing over our heads, smacking us upside the head with it when we mess up.  Does that sound anything like the Gospel of Jesus crucified?  Do the beatitudes sound anything like the words of someone who is interested in constantly holding our sins and past mistakes against us?  No.  There is no hope in constantly being condemned for past mistakes.  There is no new life, no resurrection.  The beatitudes are full of hope.

While our brains tend to get hung up on our own past mistakes and the past mistakes and sins of others, the crazy, awesome, foolishness of the Gospel is that God doesn’t get hung up on our past.  God is constantly looking to our future, vastly more concerned with what we can do than what we did do.  Such forgiveness, such hope often doesn’t make sense to our brains, and yet, such forgiveness, such hope is what we are so in need of.  We long for hope, and sometimes we just can’t see it.  That’s why Jesus sometimes takes hope and smacks us upside the head with it so that we can finally see the hope that he sees and has for us.  

I’d almost like to rename the beatitudes, “smacked upside the head by hope,” because Jesus offers us hope in something greater than ourselves. Hope that we are part of that something greater.  Hope that our lives have meaning, even when we can’t see it.  Hope that mourning and sadness are not the end, but part of a journey through darkness and into light.

When my dad died, I was mourning, and I didn’t feel particularly blessed.  I was comforted though, comforted by hope through our belief in Jesus, comforted by the church sharing and proclaiming our belief in resurrection, comforted by the love and support family and friends gave.  Through all of that, our whole family was tremendously blessed. 

During difficult times, feeling very poor in spirit, I have seen blessing, often on the other side of those times, not only for having been carried through those dark times, but also for looking back and realizing the Kingdom of God, the Gospel, Jesus himself never left during those times.  We’re still part of the Kingdom of God in and through the darkness.

During Bible study last Sunday, we were in the Derrick Tavern reflecting on Psalm 23.  Chris Delange had brought the topic and we talked about the many times and places in our lives which feel like the valley of the shadow of death.  Even in the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil for we trust in the shepherd, we trust in Jesus, to lead us from grazing place to grazing place.  Sometimes we must be led through the dark valleys, the valleys of the shadow of death, in order to come to the next grazing place.  Blessed are we when being led through the valley of the shadow of death, for Jesus is leading us to a green pasture, beside still waters. 

The valley of the shadow of death may be those times when we mourn, those times when we are poor in spirit, those times when we feel far from blessed.  Even in those times, even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus teaches us that we still have hope, that we are still part of his kingdom, beloved of God simply because we are beloved of God.  Jesus’ words of hope may not always make sense to us; they often don’t.  Those times are when we especially need his words.  When we are in the valley of the shadow of death, we need Jesus’ foolish sounding words to smack us upside the head with hope.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Fumbling In the Dark



Brad Sullivan
2 Epiphany, Year A
January 14, 2017
Emmanuel, Houston
John 1:29-42

Fumbling In the Dark

Repentance leads to seeing Jesus.  That is what I heard in our Gospel story this morning, as John was declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God, the one who would take away the sins of the world.  John said that he came baptizing so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel.  Now John came with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and his doing so led to Jesus being revealed as God’s son after he was baptized by John.  This baptism of repentance led to a revelation of Jesus, seeing him as more than a carpenter’s son, but as the Son of God who has saved the world from their sins.  For us, repentance leads to seeing Jesus as well and being guided by the light of Jesus, without which, without Jesus, we’re fumbling in the dark.

We may not feel like we’re fumbling in the dark.  We’re so often guided, after all, our own lights, one of which being the light of some truth that we hold.  Guided by our own lamps of truth, it’s little wonder we end up fumbling in the dark, especially considering how vitriolic our lamps of truth have become as of late.  We know that we are right, or even if not completely sure of our own correctness, we know with absolute certainty that the other side is wrong.  That vitriol, that certainty in our own truth leaves us fumbling in the dark..

Jesus is the light of the world, the light of God, we’re told in the first chapter of John, and we’re told that Jesus came with grace and truth.  Jesus came with truth, and we tend to hold onto that truth as best we understand it, especially when we’re fumbling in the dark.  Even more than the light of Jesus’ truth, however, we need the  light of Jesus’ grace. 

Jesus’ grace didn’t demand total understanding of truth from people.  Jesus spent time with a lot of people who certainly didn’t seem to have truth wrapped up particularly well.  Jesus was called a friend of sinners, and as such he didn’t lambast or lecture them.  He had dinner with them.  When he saw people fumbling in the dark, he gave them grace and love to be their light along with his truth.

Jesus came with grace to see us as fumbling in the dark as well, doing our best as we walk along the well worn paths of our lives, when we’re often not even guided by light anymore, but simply by repetition, following in the same old paths, the same old ways that we can follow with our eyes closed, ways that don’t lead anywhere good, but ways which we know so well that they just feel right.  Jesus came with grace enough to give us light so that when we repent, when we turn from those well worn paths toward a new path, we have light to follow in the way of Jesus.  

Back in high school, I believed I was following in the way of Jesus.  I’d grown up a Christian my whole life, and I knew nothing but the truth.  I knew about the Gospel and about Jesus.  He was the truth, and that was that.  So, at times back in high school, I ended up following a particular path, a path called:  moral superiority and mocking of liberals and various morally unacceptable people in the guise of righteously upholding Jesus and Christian values.  It felt like truth.  It was really just bullying.

My views on various things changed over the years.  Various truths changed, but I still believed in Jesus.  In my late teens and early twenties, I began to repent of the ways I had been walking, so certain of my truth that I could denigrate others for not holding the same truth. 

Then, in seminary, I found myself agreeing with some of the more liberal views on several issues, especially the hot button issues of the time.  I was sickened, however, at how the opposing views, views which I had previously held, were not really welcome on campus.  The goal of Virginia Theological Seminary was for all views to be welcome, but in practice, VTS was following the same path I had followed back in high school, though at VTS it was called:  intellectual superiority and mocking of conservatives and various morally unacceptable beliefs in the guise of love and respect for all people.  It felt like truth to those on that path.  It was really just bullying.

Those of us who have been on that path, the path of (assumed) truth without grace, believe our own beliefs to be right and afford little or no grace to those with opposing views. When I have been on that path, I was blinded.  I knew where I wanted to go.  I knew the end, what was right, where we should all (I assumed) go as a society, but getting there, I was fumbling in the dark. 

Repenting of that certainty, that truth without grace, I found myself less certain about where I was going, but more confident in how I was getting there, guided by the light of Jesus. 

Over the last week, I realized that I again needed to repent from walking that same, well worn path of self-righteous, supposed truth.  My supposed truth without grace was in the belief that the wrong candidate had won the presidential election.  I wasn’t really excited about Hilary, but I was so turned off by Trump’s rhetoric and seeming character flaws.  I knew I was right and the other side was wrong, until I finally really listened to my cousin, a Trump supporter, and I realized how self-righteous I had been in my belief.  Supposed truth without grace and bullying had become my path again, and I was wrong. I needed to repent of that path and let the light of Jesus be revealed to me once again. 

My less than stellar views of our president elect didn’t change, but I can hold those views more lightly now.  I may very well be wrong.  He may be exactly what this country needs.  More importantly, having repented of the path of supposed truth without grace, I can follow Jesus again when he says to his disciples, “come and see”, rather than be deaf to his invitation or too caught up in thinking myself right even to care.  In my supposed truth without grace, I was blind to Jesus all around me.  I was blind to Jesus in people all around me.  I was wrong.  I needed to repent of that path.  I’m guessing I’m the only one.

Here’s what I think now regarding the election, and I offer these thoughts for all of those still struggling with the decisions or the reactions of those on the other side.  People made the best choices they could with the information they had and the information which they were able to believe.  Folks on both sides of this thing have asked, “how could you possibly have voted for [this candidate], knowing [this terrible thing] about them.”  How could you be so stupid or immoral as to vote for whichever candidate?  That’s about the sentiment I’ve heard quite often.  Now, not wanting the other candidate to win is pretty normal, but good gracious, it seems that an awful lot of people on both sides viewed the other candidate as the latest incarnation of Satan. Some even thought the comparison gave Satan a bad name.

How could either side vote for a candidate who seemed so horribly flawed to the other side?  Well, it’s really kind of simple.  Our brains will only allow us so much cognitive dissonance before they begin jettisoning some bad information (or assuming it to be false) so that they can handle and align what we do with what we believe.

Adding to differences of policy off, folks were fearfully and (strongly) against Trump because of what he’d said and done/reportedly done.  They saw a particular character emerge from the information given, a character which could not be supported.  Folks who were against Hillary, saw a similarly deficient character emerge based on what Hillary had said and done/reportedly done, a character which could not be supported. 

Both groups did the best they could with the information they had, and many within both groups had to ignore/gloss over, or explain away some of the more troubling aspects of each candidates’ character.  Regarding the truth of either candidate and the soundness of a vote for either, we’re all fumbling in the darkness, doing our best with very limited knowledge of truth.  We have incomplete truth.  We can’t have anything but incomplete truth. 

Grace, on the other hand, well that we have in abundance, and grace is something we can give in abundance.  Many want us to come together as people, as the body of Christ, and we need to.  We need to give each other grace with our competing, incomplete truths, grace enough to say, “I truly believe you were doing the best you could.” 

Otherwise both sides of any issue continue to walk on well worn paths that feel like truth, but which are really just bullying.  When we’re on those paths, no matter how certain we are, we’re blind, our paths lighted only by the darkness of certainty and truth without grace which end up leaving us fumbling in the darkness of bullying. 

Repenting of that path, we can see Jesus again.  Turning toward Jesus, with his light to guide us, we don’t always know exactly where we are going, or where we’ll end up, but we do know the way.  Jesus is the way.   With the grace of Jesus and restored relationships to guide us, we travel together toward an uncertain future, secure not in the destination, secure not in the end, but secure in each other, and secure in the grace of Jesus to guide us.