Saturday, November 26, 2022

“Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus" - November 27, 2022

Text: Isaiah 40:1-5, 28-31

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, a season to remember Christ’s coming among us and reflect on Christ’s coming again.  It is a time of preparation for the great celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

It is also a time filled with activity.  Family get-togethers, social gatherings, holiday parties – and of course shopping, even if a lot of that is done online anymore.  There are school concerts and all kinds of seasonal special events.  We will have our church Christmas Dinner in a couple of weeks, the first actual sit-down Christmas Dinner we have had since 2019, if you can believe that.  The children and youth are busy with activities and we look forward to the Christmas Eve service.

One of the things I really love about this season is the music.  Our choir is hard at work on a cantata that we will present at Northcrest on December 11 and then here in worship on December 18.  Our Yuletide Orchestra will be playing soon.  And as much as anything, I love all of the Christmas carols.  There are so many wonderful, beautiful carols, and there is something about singing these songs that are so familiar and so full of meaning – and that we only sing during this season.

The sermons during this season will revolve around the messages of some of these much-loved carols.  And so often, there is just a phrase that can capture the essence of the message.

This morning we sang “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”  It was written by Charles Wesley.  Charles was the brother of John Wesley, known as the founder of Methodism, and Charles was no slouch himself.  Charles was a prolific hymn writer.  Does anybody wants to guess how many hymns he wrote?  One estimate is around 6500.  That is almost beyond belief.  

Wesley was a hymn writer for something in the neighborhood of 50 years.  That would mean writing an average of close to 3 hymns a week.  Every week.  For 50 years.  And he did not write in the praise chorus style, with just a few phrases sung repetitively.  Some of his hymns had 18 or 22 stanzas.  Charles Wesley was serious about hymn writing.

Sixteen Wesley hymns are in our blue hymnal, which isn’t bad for somebody who died 234 years ago.  Among these are Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, and two great Christmas carols, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

Our scripture today comes from the 40th chapter of Isaiah, written during Israel’s captivity in Babylon.  The people were in exile—away from their homeland, away from Jerusalem, away from all that was familiar and comforting.  They were unable to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed anyway.  They were strangers living in a strange land.

It was at this point that the word of God came to them through the prophet Isaiah: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.”  Their exile, which came because the people had turned from God, was nearly over.  God was coming for them.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

The prophet Isaiah spoke a word of comfort and hope, and the great hope of Israel is capture by Wesley’s hymn.  “Come, thou long-expected Jesus.  Come to set thy people free.”  But the need for such hope is not just a way back then thing.  It may be that what we need most in this season is comfort and hope.

We live in a completely different world than the world of Isaiah’s time.  We are not exiles living in a strange land.  We live in the richest and most comfortable society in history – at least comfortable in terms of material things.

But it may be that in this season of the year, more than any other, that comfort--in the way of consolation and strength and assurance and hope—is in short supply.  We get stressed out by an endless schedule of events and obligations.  Some of us have lost a parent or a spouse or a child or a dear friend, and Christmas can be very difficult—it can be a bittersweet time.  Even if the loss was some time ago, the pain can linger.

For some, family tensions are heightened in this season.  There are those who are thinking, “Well, we barely made it through Thanksgiving, now we have to somehow get through Christmas.”  Maybe not your family, but we all know it happens.

In the midst of all the seasonal merry-making and celebration, we may somehow feel like strangers in a strange land.  And Isaiah’s message of comfort and hope to those in exile may be just what we need.

Isaiah spoke of God coming to bring deliverance, to bring comfort.  To bring hope.  And if there is anything we cannot live without, it is hope.  Things may appear bleak, life may be difficult, but hope allows us to go on and to move forward, to strive toward a better day and a better future.  We all need hope.  As the carol puts it, “Hope of all the earth thou art.”  

In order to receive God’s comfort, in order to find God’s hope, we have to be open to it.  We need to be ready for it.  “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Archaeological discoveries in what was Babylon have confirmed the background of this passage.  Triumphal highways were built to welcome a king into a city, specially constructed for an important event.  Hills were leveled, valleys were filled, crooked roads were made straight. Everything was prepared, everything was in place.  

With Zoe living in North Liberty, we frequently drive on Highway 30 over to Cedar Rapids.  There has been road construction going on in the stretch from Tama to Cedar Rapids for years.  For a while, there was the old highway going east and the new highway for the westbound lanes.  The old road had you going up and down hills, up and down.  But on the new highway, you just glide along.  The low places had been filled in and the hills were not nearly so high.  It is much smoother driving.

Things were made ready for the coming of the king.  This time of year, many of us can relate to getting ready and making everything just right.  We get ready for holiday parties or a visit from relatives by doing a little extra cleaning.  We dust in places we don’t normally worry about.  We do more baking than usual.  (For some of us, any baking is more baking than usual.)  We get out the Christmas decorations and we want things to look nice.  We put up Christmas lights.  We know about preparation, and there is a certain amount of preparation that takes place for important visitors.

The people were to prepare a place in the wilderness for God.  In the wilderness.  The Israelites knew about wilderness too.  For 40 years they had wandered after leaving Egypt.  God had seen them through the wilderness and brought them out, and God would bring them through this wilderness, this exile.  

But wilderness is not simply a geographical term.  It is a place of the heart, a place of the spirit.  Sometimes we may feel like those Israelites, living in a strange land.  Living in a wilderness.  There are those times when we can find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness and not even realize it.  

Fred Craddock was one of the great preachers of our time.  He died a few years ago.  Craddock told about a little girl who attended church faithfully at one of his first pastorates in Tennessee.  Her parents sent her to church but never came with her.  They would pull in the church’s circle drive, drop her off, and go out for Sunday breakfast.  The father was an executive for a big chemical company, very ambitious, upwardly mobile.

The whole town knew about the parties they threw on Saturday nights, given not so much for entertainment or out of friendship, but as a part of his career advancement program.  That determined who was invited.  The whole town knew about the wild things that went on at those parties.  But every Sunday morning, there was the little girl.

One Sunday Craddock looked out at his congregation and there she was.  He thought, “There she is with a couple of adult friends.”  Later, he realized that it was mom and dad sitting with her.  When the invitation was given at the end of the service, mom and dad came down front to join the church.

After the service, Craddock, the young pastor, asked them what had prompted this.  “Do you know about our parties?,” they asked.  “Yeah, I’ve heard of your parties.”

“Well, we had one last night.  It got a bit loud, kind of rough, lots of drinking.  And it woke up our daughter, who was asleep upstairs.  She came down the stairs and was on about the third step.  And she saw the eating and drinking and said, “Oh, can I have the blessing?  “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.  Goodnight, everybody.”  And she went back up the stairs.

Things quieted down quickly.  People began to say, “It’s getting late, we really must be going, thanks for a great evening,” and within two minutes the whole place was empty.
Mom and dad started to pick up the crumpled napkins and half-eaten sandwiches and spilled peanuts, and then they looked at each other.  And he said what they both were thinking: “What do we think we’re doing?”

God had come for them.  It wasn’t the prophet Isaiah who had proclaimed “Prepare the way of the Lord,” it was their little girl.

God’s call comes to us in all sorts of ways, through various prophets, but the call is the same: prepare the way of the Lord.  Preparing for God’s ways to take hold in our hearts is what Advent is about.  For that to happen, we may need to make some changes in direction.

It may have to do with giving less attention to being comfortable and more attention to bringing the comfort of Christ to others.  It might involve remembering someone who is lonely.  It might mean being sensitive to those who have suffered pain and loss.  It might involve spending time in scripture and in prayer so that God’s word can work in our hearts.  It might involve making a tough decision or taking a difficult action that you know you need to make.  

As we do these things, as we make these turns in life, God begins to lead us out of the wilderness we may find ourselves in and we begin to discover the comfort and hope of God.  And we realize that this is not only our hope.  Our world may be a mess, but we can sing with Charles Wesley,  “hope of all the earth thou art.”

May we examine our hearts and prepare the way of the Lord, who does not promise a comfortable life but promises something even greater: the comfort of God’s own presence and the hope of all the earth.  Prepare ye the way of the Lord!  Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

“Blessed to Be a Blessing” - November 13, 2022

Text: Micah 6:6-8

We sang that great old gospel hymn this morning, “Count Your Blessings.”  I remember singing it at the church I grew up in back in Southern Indiana, and a lot of you probably grew up singing it too.  “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

When our stewardship committee met to talk about a theme for our stewardship campaign, we talked about how we have all been blessed, and how that blessing leads us to generosity – to passing on the blessings.  Early this fall in worship, we were in Genesis and we looked at Abraham.  God said to Abraham, “I will bless you so that you and your descendants may be a blessing to the nations.”  I will bless you so that you may be a blessing.

An awareness of the ways in which we have been blessed can certainly make a difference in our lives.  It can change our attitude about things.  It can change the way we perceive the situation and open new possibilities.  Remembering that God has blessed us in our life can give us confidence to face what may be a difficult future.

So we sang “Count Your Blessings” and we have tried to practice what we sing.  You were all asked to jot down a couple of blessing or two in your life.  I’m going to read those responses.


We been blessed in so many ways.  And we have all been blessed by the ministry of our church – this is a place where we can learn and grow, where we build friendships and experience community.  Through this congregation we experience meaningful worship and stirring music and those moments of revelation and inspiration and deeper connection with God.  

For me, this is a family of faith where we can experience both the freedom to be ourselves and think for ourselves as well as have the support and community we need to follow Jesus together.  It is a place to serve and to share and to connect not just with each other but with the wider community and the world out there.

That’s a little of my own personal testimony about my experience in this church, and I know so many of you have had that same experience: we have been blessed.  We respond to God’s blessings by being generous – with our time, our talent, our resources, our relationships – so that others may be blessed.

We have been making our way through the Old Testament this fall and our reading today is from the prophet Micah.  Last week we looked at the story of Naaman and the prophet Elisha.  Micah lived about 100 years later and prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah.  

This is a very familiar scripture for many of us – I remember that this was Howard Johnson’s favorite Bible verse.  And it fits very well with our stewardship theme of “Blessed to Be a Blessing.”  

Micah’s understanding was that the nation had turned to elaborate ritual sacrifices while at the same time engaging in wickedness, cheating, violence by the wealthy toward the poor, and rampant lying.  It wasn’t that God was against ritual practice per se, but ritual sacrifice was no substitute for living faithfully.

Micah brings an indictment against the people and then asks what it would take to set things right.  Just what is it that God wants from us?  Essentially, Micah says that God doesn’t really want anything.  Because God is not after things; God is interested in us.  Faith is a relationship.  What God wants is a certain way of living from us, a way of living that walks alongside God.  

The message of Amos and Hosea, Micah and Isaiah, all of the great 8th century prophets can be summarized in this one verse: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God.”  

This way of living is seen clearly in the life and teachings of Jesus.  Jesus wasn’t concerned about the proper rituals of religion; he was about living in relationship with God.  For Jesus, it all boiled down to love God and love your neighbor, which is pretty similar to what Micah is saying here.

First, we are to do justice.  Not just like the idea of justice, but actually do it.  This means that we work for the good of all people, especially those who are powerless.  We work to change structures and systems so that everyone is treated fairly and equitably.  As Christians we are to be salt and light in our communities.  We are to live in a way that honors and respects and values everyone.  We do justice and we work against injustice.

Righting wrongs, providing opportunities for those who need it, seeing all people as God’s children, full of worth and value – these are all elements of justice.  

And then we are to love kindness.  If you look in five different translations of the Bible, you might find 5 different words here.  It may read mercy, or loyalty, or love, or grace.  The word that is hard to translate here is hesed.  It means something like loving kindness.

Hesed is when you are really hurting and there is someone who has no reason to help you but they do anyway – they go out of their way to help.  That is what it is to be on the receiving end of hesed.  And God is often described as being a God of hesed.  

It is interesting that we are to do justice, but we are to love mercy or love kindness.  So it’s not just that God wants us to do good toward others; God wants us to love doing good toward others.  We are not just called to love our neighbor, God wants us to love loving our neighbor.

And then we are to walk humbly with God.  The key word here is walking.  Life is a journey, and walking humbly means that we journey with God; we learn from God.  In Judaism, the word for ethics and morality is “walking.”  It describes how one should go about one’s day-to-day life.  Our walk is never taken alone.  You might remember that Psalm 23 says, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me.”  We might walk through the valley of the shadow of death or we might be walking on sunshine, but no matter what comes our way, we are walking with God.  This is what God wants.

The life of faith is not about outward shows of piety and goodness.  It is about walking humbly with God.  As that relationship with God grows, we more and more are led to do justice and love kindness.  As we love God, we are more and more led to love our neighbor.

Micah says that authentic faith is not about outward appearances or ritual acts; it is about relationships.  The focus on relationships extends to our financial giving.  We don’t receive a bill from the church and we are not asked to pay our dues.  We give willingly and joyfully, out of a relationship.  The Old Testament idea was to give 10% of one’s income as a tithe, or gift to God.  Jesus’ teaching goes beyond this and says that it all comes from God – it’s not that 10% belongs to God; 100% belongs to God.  We are stewards of all of these gifts.  So the question is: how do we use what God has blessed us with and entrusted to us?

We give out of relationship.  God blesses us, and we want to give.  We see needs, and we want to meet them.  We understand how important our mission is as a church, and we want to support it.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  

I read a powerful news article this week.  Romello Early – his friends call him Mello - couldn’t stand watching his friend and fellow seventh-grader, Melvin Anderson, get taunted for wearing old, worn-out sneakers.  Other kids were just merciless in putting him down.

“I really didn’t appreciate other people talking about him that way,” Mello said.  On October 24, he called his mother on FaceTime, which he does every day after school.   That afternoon, Mello broke down in tears as soon as his mother answered the phone.

“Romello, what happened?” she asked.

“I’m getting tired of them bullying my friend about his shoes.  It’s making me so upset,” he responded.  He explained about his classmates mocking Melvin for having dirty, worn out sneakers.

Then, Mello asked her, “Can we go buy him some shoes?”  His mother said they would talk about it when she got home from work.  During their in-person conversation later, she said he was still distraught.  Mello was adamant about buying his friend a fresh pair of sneakers to stave off bullies — and remind him that he has people who care about him.

“Can I use my allowance, or you can take something away that I would get for Christmas?” Mello asked his mother.

His mom said, “I was floored, because most kids are not willing to give up something to another child; most kids are about themselves… it touched me in a way that I almost can’t even describe.”

For Mello, the decision was intuitive.  “You should always treat people the way you want to be treated,” he said. “I have a lot of stuff, so I was thinking, let’s bless somebody else today.”

So that evening, they went to a sneaker store and bought a pair of black-and-white Nike Dunks for Melvin.  Mello used savings from his allowance to pay for the $135 shoes.

I read this story and I was so struck by what this 12 year old said.  “I have a lot of stuff, so I was thinking, let’s bless somebody else today.”  Mello understood that he was blessed to be a blessing.

We have been richly blessed in so many ways.  And we have the opportunity to bless others.  We do this through our living – by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

As a church, this is what we seek to do together.  As recipients and stewards of God’s blessings, we are called to be a blessing to others.  Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

“Healing and Humility” - November 6, 2022

Text: 2 Kings 5:1-15

Last Sunday, we thought about wisdom and discernment as we looked at Solomon.  Under his leadership the great temple was built in Jerusalem.  Along with the temple there was an ambitious program of public works, including a palace for the king.  Though he had asked God for wisdom, not wealth, he lived lavishly and became fabulously wealthy.  To support all of this, the people were taxed heavily, and by the end of his reign, the nation was nearly bankrupt.  

After Solomon’s death, the nation was divided north and south.  It is during the time of the divided monarchy that the prophets Elijah and Elisha arose in the northern kingdom of Israel.  Elisha was Elijah’s protégé, and at the end of Elijah’s life, Elisha took up his mantle, or cloak - literally.  This is where the expression comes from for passing on authority from teacher to student.

It was in the time of Elisha the prophet that we come to today’s scripture.  Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram, an ancient country that is today part of Syria.  Naaman was a military hero and a powerful man.  

But there was a problem.  Naaman had a terrible skin disease.  Unless one was born into the royal family, a person could not rise any higher than Naaman, but his power and status did not protect him from illness.   This skin disease is often translated as “leprosy,” but it is not leprosy as we think of it today.  Now in Israel, if you had such a skin disease you would have to remain outside the community according to Leviticus.  There were purity concerns and the possibility of spreading this on to others.  It’s not clear what this would have meant in Aramean society, but this is clearly not good.

Now, Aram borders Israel to the northeast.  There was a history of border disputes and fighting between the two nations that has essentially gone on for millennia and still goes on today in the Golan Heights.  During an earlier raid on Israel, an Israelite girl was taken captive, and she was now Naaman’s wife’s servant.

Surprisingly, almost unbelievably, this servant girl taken from Israel cares about Naaman.  It’s hard to imagine why she would root for this military leader of a rival nation.  But for whatever reason, she wants to help him.  So she tells Naaman’s wife that there is a prophet back in her home country who could heal him.  

This girl is unnamed.  This is the only part she has in this story.  And yet without her, there would be no story.  It is her suggestion that makes everything possible.  

It perhaps says something about the depth of Naaman’s desperation that he listened to the advice of this Israelite servant girl.  As a traditional foe of Israel, it would be humiliating for this great man to go to Israel, of all places, on bended knee.  But his disease threatened to take everything from him, and so he was willing to try almost anything.

Naaman mentions this servant’s suggestion to the king, and to his surprise, the king thinks it’s a great idea.  Of course, there were political implications to consider.  Naaman’s visit would create quite a stir.  The king sends along gifts: silver and gold, an enormous amount of money, and ten new suits - the latest in Aramean fashion.  The king sends Naaman directly to the king of Israel.  This needed to be handled at the proper level.   A person like Naaman didn’t just go hat-in-hand to some Israelite prophet.  

The letter sent to the king of Israel says, “I have sent Naaman to you so that you may cure him of leprosy.”  No mention of a prophet who might be able to heal him.  The king of Israel panics.  “What, you think I can just cure disease?” he asks.  He was obviously being set up.  When he failed to provide the cure, Aram would have an excuse, a pretense, to invade Israel again.  It was a potentially dangerous situation, and the king tears his clothes as a sign of his despair.  

But word of Naaman’s visit and the king’s predicament reached Elisha the prophet, who sent a message to the king of Israel.  “Send this guy on over to me,” Elisha says.

It’s interesting that this slave girl, a captive in a foreign land, has heard of the prophet Elisha and believes he can heal Naaman – but the king seems clueless about this.  He doesn’t think of sending Naaman to Elisha for healing.

Naaman and his whole entourage, with horses and chariots and servants, go to the house of Elisha.  They pull up at Elisha’s place.  And they wait.  But Elisha does not come out to greet him.  Instead of being received with honor by Elisha, this Israelite prophet just sends out a servant.  

A visit from Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army, had to be the biggest thing that had happened in these parts in who knows when.  This mighty general arrives, and the prophet doesn’t even bother to see him!  A scrawny messenger boy tells Naaman to go dip in the Jordan River seven times, and he would be clean.

It was a slap in the face is what it was.  Elisha’s prescription was no better than his bedside manner.  The Jordan River was really not much more than a muddy creek.  It was shallow and at times rather foul-smelling.  I mean, if you dipped seven times in the Jordan River, you were likely to get a skin disease.

Naaman is infuriated.  He has come all this way, gone to all this trouble, brought expensive gifts, just to have the servant of an Israelite prophet tell him to go dip in a godforsaken mudhole.  If he were going to wash in a river, they had way better rivers back home.  Of all the nerve!

Naaman said, “I thought the prophet would come out, and wave his hands and call on his God, and say magic, mysterious words to cure me.  I thought there would be drama.  I thought there would be spectacle.”  And Naaman stormed off in a rage.

And for the second time, it is not the mighty and powerful people, but a lowly servant who saves the day and points Naaman towards healing.  His servants approached him and said, “Look, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it?

The servant was right.  If Elisha had sent Naaman on a difficult quest, or prescribed an arduous or painful treatment, he would have done it.

Actually, that kind of prescription would have been easier for Naaman because it would have meant that he had worked for his healing.  It would have meant that he himself was responsible for it.  As it was, he wanted to pay for the treatment with an enormous amount of money and fine clothing.  But Elisha would not take it.  For Naaman, to simply accept a gift was a lot harder.

But the servant’s words were true.  He would have done anything.  So it made sense to at least give Elisha’s prescription a try.  He goes to the muddy waters of the Jordan, and he immersed himself seven times in the water.

Naaman had to set aside his pride and humble himself.  The text says, “He went down,” and he really did have to go down.  He had to stoop to taking advice from an Israelite slave girl, then he went down to Jerusalem, and then even further down to the prophet in Samaria.  He had to lower himself to the point of being set straight by his own servants, and finally he went down into the muddy Jordan, washing with the very common people of an enemy nation, before he found healing.

“The Doctor” was a movie starring William Hurt as a physician who is diagnosed with throat cancer.  As a teacher in the med school, he is used to people following his commands.  He is in control and in charge, and he is not used to being a patient.

As a patient, he finds that he has to do a lot of waiting.  He is treated like anybody else and has to go by other people’s schedules, not his own.  He is not used to feeling unimportant; he is not used to all the indignities of being a patient.  In the course of his treatment, he becomes friends with a fellow patient who teaches him a great deal about living and about dying.  He makes a full recovery, while she does not.

When he returns to his teaching position, one of the first class projects is to assign a bed to each student and to attach a hypothetical disease to each of them.  Each make-believe patient has to undergo all of the tests associated with that disease.  The nurses, much more familiar than doctors with the day-to-day care of patients, seem pleased by this.

This doctor was not only cured, he was healed.  He experienced a conversion of sorts, and returns to his profession, both a changed man and a much better doctor.

We can hope that it was that way for Naaman.  He was cured of his illness, and we have to hope that in the process, he was healed as well, that he learned humility, learned to listen to others, and was a changed man after the experience.

The power dynamics in this story are so interesting.  On one level, you have the official sources of power.  You have Naaman the general, the king of Aram, and the king of Israel.  All of the power and resources available at their disposal – including truckloads of cash and the coercive power of the state.  But they are unaware of other sources of power and other kinds of power.  In fact, the main thing that the servant girl had told Naaman was completely ignored.  And it doesn’t occur to the king of Israel that he prophet might be able to provide healing through the power of God.  

On the other hand, you have a couple of Naaman’s own servants and an Israelite prophet who is unimpressed with displays of power and wealth.  They are the ones who actually get things done.   And in fact, Elisha performs a low-key miracle.  It is not flashy, it’s not dramatic, and he isn’t even around to see it.

This could have been a simple story.  The servant girl told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman.  And eventually, that is exactly what happened.  But there were all of these complicated steps and missteps along the way, with social structures and official channels and all kinds of expectations related to power and entitlement.

It was only once Naaman got beyond all of this, got past being full of himself, that he was able to find healing.

Unlike Naaman, we are not national heroes.  We are not amazing, miracle-working prophets.  We are not superstar saints.  But we can do what this young girl did.  In small acts of compassion and caring, we can make a difference.  Each act of kindness and compassion and unexpected goodness contributes to the healing of both others and ourselves – as well as our community and our world.  

Each time we care for our neighbor or choose to be generous or help a person in need or express concern for a friend or act to protect the earth or welcome a stranger or give of our time to make our community a better place, we are contributing to healing.  In this season that we think about stewardship, it strikes me that such acts of kindness and caring and compassion are powerful acts of stewardship.

We are called to be stewards of all God has entrusted to us.  And that includes the relationships in our lives.

Who are the people that have blessed you, who have made a real difference in your life?  Sometimes it may be an unexpected person, like the servant girl who makes healing possible for Naaman.  And sometimes, we have the opportunity to be that person, to share the hope and peace and love of Christ and in doing so point another toward healing.  May it be so.  Amen.