Sunday, September 27, 2015

Homily: The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost/Cathedral Day [September 27,2015] Washington National Cathedral

       All right.  I confess:  I, too, have been taken over by Popesteria, a disorder I would define as a complete and total fixation on the words, actions, and teachings of Pope Francis. Popesteria always carries with it a fair amount of denial. For days on end I told myself that I could not be bothered to stand with 11,000 people on the White House lawn for three hours waiting for his holiness to arrive. Then on Tuesday I said to Kathy, “Well, I might as well pick up my ticket just in case.” And then on Wednesday morning, at 5:30 a.m., I found myself walking down to the White House and then milling around with the gigantic crowd until the ceremony started almost four hours later. It doesn’t matter that I could neither see Pope Francis nor even hear him very well. When you suffer from Popesteria you take what you can get. It was enough just to be in roughly the same zip code with the man.

            I confess to having Popesteria even though I am probably the most jaded person there is when it comes to being around famous people. There are very few celebrities I would walk around the block to see. But Pope Francis is something else.  He’s an actual Christian person who has somehow found himself leading the world’s largest church.  His personal authenticity, his intellectual and theological depth, his obvious empathy and compassion—all of these traits combine to make him an inviting face for the gospel in the 21st century. And from what I’ve seen of the coverage of his visit, I know his trip to America has been as transformative for our nation as it has been for me and my fellow popestericals.

We respond so powerfully to Pope Francis because he incarnates our highest aspirations and deepest values. It’s not only that he articulates the faithful Christian response to the world’s besetting social problems; it’s also that he lives the way all of us who follow Jesus aspire to live. He takes the gospel seriously. He actually does what Jesus advises us to do—living not only simply and generously but also joyfully and expansively. He treats both individuals and classes of people as bearers of God’s image in the world. Listen again to his words to Congress last Wednesday about how we together might respond to the crises plaguing today’s world:

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. [Pope Francis Address to Congress, September 24, 2015]


By his very being, Pope Francis is teaching us what it means to be a Christian person. Now I’m spending all this time talking about him not to imitate a high school book report but as a way into saying something about Cathedral Day. Once a year, on the last Sunday in September, we here at Washington National Cathedral pause to observe the founding of this cathedral on September 29, 1907, and we take the occasion to think together about what a place like this is for. In a world of gross inequality and suffering—not to mention selfies, snapchat, and the Kardashians—what possible meaning can a gothic edifice like this have? It seems to me that the answer to that question lies not in a set of ideas but in a person. Pope Francis tells us not only what it means to be a Christian human being.  He shows us what it means to be a Christian church, and by extension, a Christian cathedral.

On Cathedral Day we always read the gospel account [Matthew 21:12-16]: of Jesus entering the Jerusalem temple and casting out the money-changers. As Matthew tells it,

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
   but you are making it a den of robbers.’ [Matthew 21: 12-13]

When Jesus tells us that we are turning a house of prayer into a house of thieves, we usually infer that he is criticizing commercial transactions.  (Given that Washington National Cathedral has a store, a café, and that we charge for admission, reading Jesus’s words as a proscription on any money changing hands would be very bad news for us indeed.) But the word Matthew uses is the Greek word lēstēs which in English really means something more like “brigand”.  A brigand is not only a thief: a brigand is part of a gang which lives by looting and pillage. Translation: Jesus implies that by institutionalizing and commodifying sacred transactions, the money-changers are hijacking the mission of the temple itself.  It’s not so much that selling doves for sacrifice sullies the holiness of the place; it’s rather that the entire temple system of sacrifice which presumes to guarantee holiness has become a caricature of what the life of faith is really all about. As the prophet Hosea reminds us [Hosea 6:6], God desires “mercy, not sacrifice”.  In promoting a culture of worship disconnected from human need, the temple system has bought into the false idea that one can pray to God while ignoring human suffering. The temple has become an impediment to the life of prayer.

So Cathedral Day, if it means anything, recalls us to what the mission of a place like this is all about.  Are we called to be a beautiful edifice where prayers are said flowers are arranged, and beautiful music is heard, or are we called to be something more? Who, if we are honest with ourselves, are the real money-changers in this temple? By serving a vision of holiness disconnected from the pains and injustices of the world, how are we hijacking the gospel mission of a house of prayer?

We get some help in answering this question in the same address Pope Francis gave to Congress. In that speech, his holiness cited four exemplary Americans—only two of them Roman Catholics.  Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights leader are well-known.  The two others are less familiar to most of us.  Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement and spent her life working among and for the poor.  Thomas Merton was a Cistercian monk who wrote about prayer and its connection to the issues of the day. In his summative words to Congress, Pope Francis said this:

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton. [Pope Francis Address to Congress, September 24, 2015]


Defending liberty, establishing rights, striving for justice, sowing peace: these are the marks of a great nation.  They are also the marks of a great cathedral, particularly one that calls itself the “spiritual home of the nation”.  In aspiring to be the nation’s church, do we not thereby seek to embody America’s highest national affirmations? We cannot stand for both gospel truth and American values simply by being beautiful. If we are to be a “house of prayer” in the way that Jesus means it, we must embody the commitments of the four Americans Pope Francis cited in his speech. We must work for the freedom of all. We must stand for the rights of all. We must agitate for justice, especially in regard to poverty and race.  We must work for peace not only internationally but in our city streets. As beautiful as it is, a building like this is a sentimental fantasy if all we do here is bury presidents, welcome tourists, or applaud ourselves for being a national treasure. A cathedral lives out its holiness not only by being pious. A cathedral lives out its holiness by standing with and for the people God cares most about:  the poor, the sick, the grieving, the oppressed, the prisoners, the hungry, the lonely, the lost. The beauty of a place like this does not consist primarily in its stained glass, its wrought iron, or its carvings. The beauty of a place like this shines forth from what it stands for.

As an American, I will always be grateful to Pope Francis for his visit among us, recalling us to our essential vision of ourselves as a nation. As a Christian, I will likewise be grateful for his life as a constant reminder of what it means really to follow Jesus. On this Cathedral Day, let all of us who love and serve Washington National Cathedral rededicate ourselves to the vision of a holy place aspiring to be not only a “house of prayer” but also a house of justice.  May our piety shine forth both in prayer and in action. May our love for God shine forth not only from this building but in lives dedicated to defending liberty, establishing rights, striving for justice, and sowing peace. Amen.



Welcoming Remarks: "Coming Together in Faith on Climate" [September 24, 2015] Washington National Cathedral

Good Evening.  I’m Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you all tonight to “Coming Together in Faith on Climate:  Religious Leaders Support and Extend the Pope’s Call to Action”. This event would not be possible were it not for a real spirit of collaboration between and among all the sponsoring organizations.  I want to extend my personal thanks to Ruth Frey, the cathedral’s director of programs, for the work she has done on our behalf to work with our partners to bring this important symposium together.

The poet Gary Snyder says, “When you find your place where you are, practice starts.” Those of us who follow Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, and the Buddha inhabit not just a tradition.  We also dwell in a place, and our shared place is the planet.  Speaking for the Christian tradition, in our early attempts to differentiate ourselves from nature religions, the church often built a false dichotomy between valuing human beings and honoring the creation.  The environmental crises of the late 20th and early 21st century have demanded that theologians from all our traditions reassess our historic teachings and reassert our core beliefs about the sacredness of the world we share.  The looming calamity of climate change (which has already begun) has not only intensified our need, as people of faith, to speak out on creation’s behalf; it has galvanized our determination to do so.

In his encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis has issued a powerful challenge both to religious and secular leaders to see climate change as the theological issue it is and to mobilize to reverse it on all our behalf.  All of us who gather tonight are deeply grateful for the pope’s leadership, and we have taken the occasion of his visit to America as the opportunity to come together to think, pray, organize and act to reverse global warming here and now. 

“When you find your place where you are, practice starts.” The planet is our place, and we are the people.  Tonight our practice starts. Welcome to this work, and welcome to the cathedral.

Address: Matriculation [September 10, 2015] Episcopal Divinity School

            It is a great pleasure to be with you today and it is a great honor to serve, for a while, as the chair of the EDS board of trustees. Over the past several months I have been working closely with our President and Dean, Frank Fornaro, and I have come to learn what everybody here already knew about him: that he is the perfect person to lead EDS in this moment, possessed of great leadership ability, theological depth, and a compassionate heart. I know that when Frank and I are finished with our work together, EDS will have thrived under his visionary and caring stewardship, and I thank him for the invitation to be with you today.

It is hard for me to believe that, on a September evening 42 years ago, I signed the matriculation book here in St. John’s Chapel as a member of the last class to enroll at the Episcopal Theological School.  This was in the fall of 1973, and though we had heard that a merger with PDS might be coming, nobody then knew what the new school would feel like as a lived reality. And as a first-year student who had come all the way to Cambridge from California, I had even less sense of what seminary would have in store for me. As it turned out, the external peace and justice movement cataclysm I had been part of at U.C. Berkeley was nothing compared to the internal transformation that seminary would hold for me, my classmates, and our spouses and partners. But that’s another story.

            So enough about me. Today is about the EDS community and those who today are joining it. I’d like to say a general word about EDS and a particular word to those who are matriculating.

It is no secret that the Episcopal Divinity School has been through a rough patch. I don’t mean a rough patch just recently. I mean for its entire existence. This school was born in the struggles of the movement for women’s ordination. Nine years before the merger, ETS Jonathan Daniels had been killed in Alabama. The Cambridge school had its origins in the quest to teach the higher criticism of the Bible and explore the implications of the rise of science in the 19th century free of ecclesiastical interference. And after the merger, things hardly cooled down. There was the establishment of a Feminist Liberation Theology program in the 1980s, the open acceptance of LGBT students in the 1990s, and (this one may only seem like a controversy to us academic nerds, but believe me it’s contentious when you go to ATS meetings) the extension of seminary education through distance learning early in this century. In its 40 years of existence, the Episcopal Divinity School has been ahead of the church and academy on almost every issue. And it is no wonder that those of us who serve the church and have graduated from this school are often viewed with some suspicion. EDS has staked out a prophetic role in the life of the church and the world. It’s no wonder that we are often seen as more of a problem than a resource.  If I meet one more bishop who says, “I’m really glad that EDS exists; I just don’t want any clergy in my diocese who have gone there,” I don’t know what I’ll do.

So here’s the problem. We feel called to be bold and prophetic, and then we’re surprised when the establishment sees us as troublemakers. I’m reminded of what the philosopher Jonathan Lear says about the character Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear. You may remember that Cordelia is the one daughter in the play who refuses to tell her father what he wants to hear and is banished as a result.  Here’s what Jonathan Lear says about her:


To identify with Cordelia is to want to be blunt, to avoid embellishment, flattery, or hypocrisy-and to want to be loved for doing just that.  This is not a set of desires which get satisfied often.  By and large, people prefer to be flattered.  They find it hard to recognize love in a blunt appraisal; and they find it even harder to reciprocate such love.  Cordelia's strategy is not the route to massive popularity. -- Jonathan Lear, Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, p. 3


            In other words:  we want to tell the truth, and we want to be loved for doing itnot, in Lears words, a set of desires which get satisfied often.  We shouldnt be surprised that when a community like EDS experiences some internal tensions as this one has, many on the outside will be quick to dance on our grave. And that is why it is important, in moments like this, to remember what we came out to do in the first place. As an educational faith community shaped by the Gospel, EDS will always be one or two steps ahead of the conventional wisdom of institutional Christianity. This has consistently been the schools vocation, and if we are to be true to our calling we will ever risk being unpopular and misunderstood. That perception simply goes with the territory. But it cannot be otherwise.

            I have always found these words from the 11th chapter of Hebrews both personally and corporately inspiring:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. [Hebrews 11: 13-16]


            The author of Hebrews is talking about a certain kind of holy restlessness which motivated the matriarchs and patriarchs of Israel.  They knew themselves to be strangers and foreigners on the earth, people who desired a better country. And because they were faithful in their search for that homeland, God has prepared a city for them.

            You could say that EDS is a community of faithful learners who desire a better country.  You could say that we are strangers and foreigners not only on the earth but in the church. And you could also say that, to the extent that we are faithful in our perseverance in seeking that homeland, God has prepared a city for us.  We often talk about working for peace and justice as if it is the bitter pill of faithfulness. But anyone who has done justice work knows that the work itself is liberating. If EDS sees its reward as enduring all this justice work so that we will be popular across the Episcopal Church, we will miss the point.  If we see our justice work as allowing us already to inhabit the city that God has built for us, then we will be standing now together in our true homeland.

            And these thoughts about our corporate pilgrimage lead me to say a word to those who today embark on this more personal sacred journey of theological education. You wouldnt be here if you hadnt experienced yourself as a stranger and foreigner in the place you came from.  You wouldnt be here if you werent seeking a homeland. You wouldnt be here if you didnt want a better country for yourself, your household, your nation, your world. You have seen and greeted the promises from afar. You have come here to figure out how further to step into the pathway and pursue them.

            Theological education is a wonderful, bracing, invigorating experience. It is also really hard. It is hard for a couple of reasons.  First, youre trying to take in four new disciplines from a dead stop.  In my first year of seminary, I soon realized that I didnt have enough Bible to understand theology. I didnt have enough theology to understand the Bible.  I didnt have enough history to understand either. Ethics was a total mystery. And who had time for pastoral care?

            The point is: you are embarking on a process which is inherently destabilizing. And that leads to the second reason that seminary can be hard. Not only are you trying to wrap your head around an interlocking series of intellectual challenges; youre doing this in the context of trying on a whole new set of cultural and vocational attitudes. You might have a spouse or a partner who didnt think that this was the life they signed on for. Youre going into hospital rooms and people are looking to you to have something healing to say. And then there will be those ridiculous GOEs. This is hard work. Its hard intellectual work. Its hard spiritual work. Its hard interpersonal work. I dont say this to scare you off. I say it because as a former seminary professor and dean myself, I know something of the internal dislocation that this experience can cause.

            And I say it not only because I know that you, as seekers after a better country, will persevere through that dislocation.  I say it becauseand this is the experience of everyone who goes through theological educationit actually gets better.  There will come a day, not all that far off, when you will begin to integrate all this. There will come a day when Bible and history and theology will come together and inform the way you understand both God and yourself. There will come a day when your internal sense of your own vocation will align with your personal and interpersonal relationships. There will come a day when the process not only helps you prepare for a life in ministry but gives you the intellectual and personal skills to reflect on your life, your ministry, and the contextual situation in which you find yourself.  There will come a day when you will realize that theological education is not about downloading all the right answers and perfect things to say. It is about getting the skills and tools to access and live out the deep truths that you uniquely know and can tell about God.

            People who graduate from seminary remember it so fondly because so much happens to them there. So think of signing this matriculation book as signing your passport to adventure. Both you and the school itself are embarking today on a pilgrimage together toward that better country, that city which God is preparing for us. What you discover when youre on it is that we encounter the heavenly city in the steps of the pilgrimage itself. And that is why the speakers of Psalm 126 have always had it right:

1   When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *

          then were we like those who dream.


              2   Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *

          and our tongue with shouts of joy.


              3   Then they said among the nations, *

          “The Lord has done great things for them.”


              4   The Lord has done great things for us, *

          and we are glad indeed.



     Translation: God is already doing for us now that which we hope for. As we walk together on this sacred pilgrimage toward God’s heavenly city, we endure both personal and corporate disruption. It cannot be otherwise. But we do not experience that dislocation for its own sake: we endure it for the sake of the vision of personal peace and social justice and shalom that Jesus holds out to those who cannot do other than walk with him.

            And so, to the EDS community at large and to those who now join it today, not I say, but Jesus says: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [Matthew 6: 25-34] It really will be OK for you. It really will be OK for us. So let’s take up that passport to adventure.  Let’s get on that road and walk together with Jesus and each other--with the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the grieving, the homeless—let’s walk toward that better, heavenly country and help God build it, all the while advancing the work of peace, justice, and liberation among ourselves and in the world.  Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Homily: The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost [September 6, 2015] Washington National Cathedral

Everybody has their favorite diversions. In recent years I have become interested (my wife Kathy would say “obsessed”) with Japanese cinema.  On my day off afternoons you will often find me sprawled on the sofa watching a movie by Akira Kurasowa, Kenji Mizoguchi, or Yasujiro Ozu. Kathy doesn’t usually join me in these enjoyments; indeed she says that when she walks through the room she is greeted either by the image of a screaming samurai or a whistling kettle. Japanese movies are not everyone’s cup of tea.

I’m not sure why in these last years I have found Japanese films so compelling.  Certainly the great directors of Japan are masters of cinema in their own right.  But something else is going on here. When I look at Japanese culture on screen, I see something that illuminates my experience of being an American.  In the same way we learn foreign languages to understand our own, so we engage other cultures so we may better see ourselves.  The poet James Merrill used the term, “a kind of clarifying mirror” to describe the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. Her poems, he said, reflect and clarify the self-understanding of their readers. The “clarifying mirror” idea applies not only to art.  It also works more broadly with cross-cultural experiences. Other people, other traditions, other languages serve as clarifying mirrors in which we can comprehend ourselves more fully. We cannot truly see ourselves until someone “other” reflects our image back to us.

I have had another—perhaps obsessive—viewing interest this summer, and I do not mean True Detective or Show Me a Hero. In the last months I have become nearly overwhelmed by the plight of refugees and migrants attempting to cross from Africa and the Middle East into the European Union.  I think the discovery in Austria of a van with 71 dead Syrian refugees pushed me over the edge, but for months leading up to that horrible news we had been pummeled with stories of refugees drowning at sea, being preyed on by gangs, or jumping into trucks entering the English Channel Tunnel at Calais. And just this last week we saw new images—a Kurdish boy dead on a Turkish beach; thousands of refugees trapped on a train to nowhere in Hungary.

          In the same way that samurai pictures tell us something about the old west, these stories of Africans, Afghanis, and Syrians seeking refuge in Europe have illuminated for me something in our own national character.  While we Americans might decry the callousness of European nations refusing to offer shelter to those who suffer real persecution in their home countries, we seem to tolerate presidential candidates who describe Latin Americans seeking refuge here as rapists and murderers and who describe children born to immigrants as “anchor babies”. Yet many fleeing Central American countries like Honduras seek to escape the same violence and suffering that emigrants from Libya and Syria face in their homes. Demagoguery is easier to see from afar than it is up close.

          The dead child, the packed train, the Austrian van remind us, as nothing will, of what occurs daily on our own border. Death in Austria, Hungary, or Turkey reflects back to us the hard truth about death in the Sonoran Desert. Sometimes we can only see our own callousness in the clarifying mirror of someone else’s.

A similar clarifying reflective process is going on in today’s Gospel [Mark 7:24-30], a story that I have always found truly shocking. Jesus leaves Israel and goes to Tyre, one of the major cities of what was once known as Phoenecia. A Gentile woman, called by Mark a “Syrophoencian”, approaches Jesus and asks that he heal her daughter. She is a foreigner, a Gentile, a non-Jew.  Following Jesus around Galilee, we have come to expect that he will embrace her warmly and cast out the girl’s demon. Instead, he says a really ugly thing: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” I always thought of Jesus as a nice guy, and here he is expressing a sentiment worthy of a demagogue. In Jesus’s figure of speech, Jews are children, non-Jews are dogs. The translation: go back where you belong.

So the first surprising thing about this story is that it shows us a rare instance of Jesus when he wasn’t compassionate, forgiving, or warm. But there’s a second surprising moment here.  The woman, not cowed at all by Jesus’s holy man stature, responds in kind: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” OK, buster: you want to call me a dog, let’s carry that logic out to its completion. Even if in your eyes I’m a dog, I still deserve some kind of humane consideration. Although in Gospel wit duels, I usually root for Jesus, I’m happy here to score one for the woman.

And then here comes yet another surprise.  Jesus gets converted. He changes his mind. “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” Something about this interaction—the woman’s perseverance, not to mention her audacity, I suppose—has altered Jesus’s understanding of things.  In these seven short verses Jesus has moved from being an exceptionalistic religious rule-abider to a healer possessed of a new, expansive vision of what it means to be human. Something in the Syrophoenecian woman’s argument has showed Jesus to himself. As the representative of a culture outside of the one Jesus inhabits, she has served as a clarifying mirror of his own.

Once we’ve recovered from the several shocks this story delivers, Mark’s Gospel invites us to open ourselves to its transformative personal implications. If Jesus—the Messiah, not to mention the Word become flesh and the pre-existent Son of God—if Jesus can change his mind about something, then so can you and I. We tend to think about Jesus as an omniscient deity walking around the Holy Land in human disguise, but theologically we have always understood him to be truly and fully human too. And, frankly, to be truly and fully human means that one cannot help carry around a lot of unexamined social attitudes.  In his interaction with the Syrophoencian woman, Jesus finds himself confronted by the ugliness of his attitudes and changed in the process.  He has to look under the rock of his own prejudices, and he is not pleased with what he finds there.  And so he changes his mind. He relents.  He opens himself to someone he would have previously shut out.  If Jesus can do that, so can I. So can you. So can we all, together.

Jesus changes because he sees himself in the clarifying mirror of someone from outside his own usual frame of reference.  Jesus changes because the woman shows him himself, and in that moment of self-discovery he realizes what few of us ever get to know.  He learns that he is not normative. He is not the standard. His way of being human is one way, but it is not the only way of being human. There are other, perhaps quite different, maybe even better ways of navigating the world.  Jesus can learn this because he is lucky enough to be encountered and engaged by another, by a woman from a different race and culture. How many of us regularly hang out with people who come from someplace else? How many of us have the opportunity, much less the grace, to readjust our self-understanding in the light of an outside perspective?  Lucky for Jesus that he entered that house. Lucky for us that he did, too.

As this summer marked by demagoguery at home and suffering abroad comes to a close, and as our leaders play to the fears of our national and international electorates to build higher walls and razor-wire fences to keep the refugees out, let us hold on to this precious gospel moment shared between Jesus and a woman who would not let him let her go.  Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” In this moment, Jesus saw not only the truth but also the truth’s implications for his need to act.  We Americans destabilized the Middle East in the first place.  We should take in a generous share of these refugees as well.

It is an act of divine grace and mercy to get to see under the rock of our own social attitudes. God doesn’t always give us the chance fully to see ourselves, and then often only by the light of the clarifying mirror of someone from the outside.  We need that mirror—we need those others—in our lives to show us ourselves in all our contradictions and complexities.  We may not like what we see there, but if we never see it, we’ll never change. And if we never change, then we will never become the people God is calling us to be. If Jesus can grow, then so can we.  That’s hard news, but it’s life-giving news as well--both there and here, today and always, for you, for me, for Jesus, and for the world.  Amen.